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Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
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Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  529 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, exposes the secret communities and hotbeds of racial injustice that sprung up throughout the twentieth century unnoticed, forcing us to reexamine race relations in the United States.

In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me,
Paperback, 576 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Touchstone (first published 2005)
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Theophilus (Theo)
I remember traveling with my family when I was very young. My mother always packed lunches for us. My father would sometimes get perrturbed when my sisters or I would not go to the restroom when he stopped for gas. Little did I know then that there were only certain places he would stop (after consulting family and friends who had made that journey before) only at certain places to avoid putting our family through needless stress while spending long hous behind the wheel driving from Milwaukee, ...more
Ever wonder why all the poor white people live in tiny towns, while poor black people tend to live in the inner city? This book explains that phenomenon-- apparently many poor black people used to live in tiny towns as well, but they were systematically driven out by lynch mobs, housing ordinances, covenants, banks, and real estate agents. The federal government did its part too, denying black families subsidized loans, and requiring white homeowners to buy homes in segregated neighborhoods. Th ...more
Jun 23, 2008 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people living in small predominantly white towns
Here are some highlights from the book thus far (first two chapters)>> very important book:

Sundown Towns
By James Loewen

Sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus “all-white on purpose.” (p4)

Between 1890- 1968 white Americans established themselves in SDTs across the USA. (p.4)

Between 1890- 1940s race relations in America grew worse. After the abolishment of slavery steps were being taken to make things b
This book is one sided in its thinking. The author, Loewen, comes out in his intro and basically states white vs. black. I would like to have seen more about black society and how they treated "others" whether they were white or Asian. Being put into second class status, blacks often had to compete with Hispanics and other minorities for jobs, how did this play a role in segregation or stereotypes? I understand that most of the sunset towns were geared towards blacks, but it would have been nice ...more
This is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but the subject matter. Loewen lays out, in methodical detail, all of the ways white Americans have utterly screwed over black Americans with residential segregation. If you had any illusions about America being "post-racial," they will be shattered by this book.

This is absolutely essential reading for every white American. I wish they taught this boo
Clarence Cromwell
I picked this up for research towards an article, and haven't been able to put it down.

A few pages into the book I was shocked by the revelation that so many northern cities (hundreds or thousands) prohibited blacks not only from traveling through after dark but from living in them at all.

James Loewen did an astounding amount of research towards this hefty and exhaustively detailed book.

He spells out a truth that has been hidden in plain sight for decades, but that polite middle class people ne
This is an enormously important subject as it rids the reader of any illusions that American racism was & is primarily concentrated in the South. It's clear that Loewen did extensive amounts of research and is to be applauded for even having the courage to tackle this topic. However, as others reviewers have noted he does tend to be repetitive, which took away from my enjoyment of the book. It's still worth the read. I found his suggested solutions at the end to be intriguing - unlikely to e ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Brandi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
The author tells how the white people of this country kicked out all the black people from many towns across America and into the ghettos of large cities. I have so many feelings after reading this book: I'm appalled, horrified, guilty, sad, and sorry. I grew up in two different towns. One was not a sundown town and I lived there through 3rd grade, and the other, although not categorized as such in this book, definitely was. I don't know the details of how it became a sundown town, but as of the ...more
Michelle Murrain
In 1968, my family moved from Queens to Great Neck, a suburb of NY - one of the only NY suburbs at the time that allowed black people to own houses (as a largely Jewish suburb, it accepted us, because they also had been rejected from most suburbs in NY.) So I knew very personally what happened in the suburban US around redlining, and various other tactics, some quite violent, to keep non-whites from living in them.

In 2008, I decided to leave Oakland, and move to Sonoma County, a nice, bucolic ru
The best thing about this book is that it made the geography that I had always accepted as concrete something that was painfully alive. It was striking how many of the deeply segregated towns were familiar to me and helped me realize how pervasive segregation is in the Midwest. His analysis was sweeping and comprehensive, but sometimes felt a bit scattered. He incorporated the ideas of other scholars as well as primary sources, but it often felt blippy. Furthermore, the book already feels dated ...more
This is one of the most important books I’ve read in my lifetime.

James Loewen does a fantastic job of informing a nation of discrimination, white supremacy and racial exclusion that has been right under our noses, and that continues in some parts of the US today. Many who read this book (myself included) go into it with little or no prior knowledge of the existence of Sundown Towns. Yet, here they are, all around us.

This novel is surprisingly easy to read and understand, given it’s disturbing su
overall the premise and facts presented in this book are excellent reminders of a somewhat hidden part of america's past/present and hopefully not future. i enjoyed the fact that the author didn't concentrate his "fact finding" in the south, yet looked nationwide for instances of overt and covert residential racism.

that being said, there were a few times while reading that i felt the author was being repetitive with thoughts or phrases and that at several points he mixed his opinion in just a bi
Loewen does an excellent job of historical research on the topic of sundown (all White) towns. The author examines many facets of these towns, including their prevalence, causes, and consequences to both White and Black individuals. Given the topic and the fact that Loewen is a historian, I assumed the book would be about the past. Unfortunately, much of the book is about the present. The author makes an excellent case for his conclusions that sundown towns are alive and well in America, and tha ...more
Valuable research here, though I agree with another reviewer that it’s best read in conjunction with other books on U.S. history and race relations (particularly those regarding overarching, oppressive structural changes: a proliferation of racist laws and the growing prison system, for example, or trends in urbanization and employment) after the Civil War. Loewen’s reasons for disintegrating race relations from 1890 onward are absolutely valid, but they feel incomplete. While the sundown towns ...more
Jan 22, 2010 Tracy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people
James Loewen is my favorite contemporary historian after Howard Zinn.

I used his book Lies My Teacher Told Me when I was teaching Adult Education classes as one among a half dozen history books. My students would read about the same historic event or period in all the books and compare the different versions, what was left out of some versions, what was contradicted in multiple versions, and why. It was so engaging. One class was even able to map out the difference on a wall chart we made so we
Depressing, surprising, important. Loewen points out that most people believe all-white small towns are the natural result of a preference by African-Americans not to settle in that area; that African-Americans simply chose not to live in that town. That they somehow preferred big cities. Instead Loewen shows how African-Americans were prevented from living in most towns and suburbs in the North (He concentrates on Illinois, Indiana, and Connecticut, but his statistical reach covers the country) ...more
Paul Froehlich
This reviewer was born in Chicago – long known as one of the most racially segregated big cities in America -- and grew up in a sundown town – a working-class, industrial suburb west of Chicago. It was understood that no African-Americans were allowed to live in Franklin Park, even though hundreds worked in the factories every day, and nearby towns had large black populations.

James Loewen has written a book that is eye-opening, comprehensive and persuasive. There is a wealth of history detailing
Kat Hilton
My daughter told about this book. The author tells of how black people were chased out of many towns from the 1890's through the 1940's. He also tells of how they were treated during this period in our history up through present times. The book was published in 2006. The author was raised in Illinois and I was also. He talks a lot about Illinois towns, but also towns throughout the U.S. I had many emotions reading this book. First of all I was shocked at my own ignorance about these practices. A ...more
Linda French
I read this book after seeing Professor Loewen in an hour-long documentary on the topic. His website has an invaluable clickable US map so that readers can check out their towns' histories--the link is below. I was stunned to see that it was not an accident that all the small towns in the area where I grew up were populated only by white people. Loewen has done much of his research through census records and oral history, since the coffee table books that are produced for special town celebratio ...more
Quite disturbing to read, this book nonetheless educated me and changed my attitude toward race relations in the USA. I'm no liberal, but any compassionate person would be horrified at the extensive and shameful history of how African-Americans were involuntarily pushed into urban ghettos and were then saddled with the disadvantages that followed from that, while being blamed for it themselves. This litany of violently segregated small towns in America (mostly in the North, strangely enough) tru ...more
We cannot understand modern-day residential segregation in the North without understanding the past. The basic gist of the book is that whites in many Northern towns and suburbs systematically drove blacks (and sometimes Jews, Chinese Americans, and other groups) out in order to create all-white communities. By systematically I mean every method imaginable, including violence and murder. This occurred particularly from about 1890-1940, but continued explicitly in many places up through the 1970s ...more
On one hand, this is a frequently overlooked and utterly important piece of American history. Unfortunately, I didn't find James Loewen's style of writing to be in sync with they way I best absorb information. It was dry and dull at times, causing me to lose focus on the book despite being interested in the subject. It's an important read and the information is priceless, but unfortunately, the tediousness really took away from losing myself in the book as I typically will.

Long story short: I w
I've had this book on my shelf almost since it was released 10 years ago and just now got around to read it. This book is a very eye-opening look at sundown towns and how they came to be a huge part of this country. Loewen does a great job delving into the past of this issue and how sundown towns still manage to persist in post-Civil Rights America. He does not shy away from the various methods including violence and intimidation that have been used to create and uphold sundown towns as well as ...more
I don't know what to make of this book. The thing I find a little disorienting is that I don't know the historiography surrounding this topic, so I find it difficult to judge the historical claims. Basically, Loewen is a sociologist who did a survey/study of "sundown towns", which at the time of publication was a totally new area of historical study. He uses mostly oral history to record details. Sundown towns were areas where Blacks were either unwelcome, either because of statute or through in ...more
Loewen once again lifts the veil of racism and hypocrisy in American society. Its a tour de force indictment of a practice that gets little recognition even by its victims. Loewen draws a straight line from the usually rich all white sundown towns to the hopelessly poor all Black ghettos. That line is nop accident. He proves that the lakc of opportunity of Blacks to live where ever they want is not a social grouping phenomenum but a racist policy actuaaly endoresed until very recently by the fed ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Americans
Sundown towns are small towns or suburbs that threatened African Americans to keep out–OR ELSE. Loewen focuses research on his home state of Illinois, but discovered just how pervasive these communities were, and continue to be.

While I appreciated having my eyes opened, I do have to mention that the book took me a really long time to get through for relatively little payoff. Most of his case studies were towns in Illinois, places that seemed a world away to me, so I remember thinking the book go
I have been meaning to read this book since Chris Lahr brought it to my attention four years ago. I finally managed to get it on inter-library loan, and I was instantly wary because it was about 500 pages long and 10 lbs - not exactly ideal for the crowded subway, where I do most of my reading. But in a way, the book's physical size is a reflection of the ideas its pages contain: this is a heavy subject. I don't blame Loewen for refusing to skimp on the details, though - these truths have been s ...more
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This is a comprehensive, in-depth overview of the United States of America’s segregated and discriminatory housing practices. It is astonishing and sickening. I was aware of some of the discrimination, but had no idea how extensive and wide-spread it’s existence and ramifications are in the country's history and in it's present day. I can open the book to any page and there is a despicable example of racism. For example, page 272, “Farmer shot to death near Lamb, Hardin CO, was attempting to pro ...more
Al Young
This has been on my radar for awhile and finally got around to reading it. Loewen is fairly well-known for his Lies my Teacher Taught Me and similar series of books.

This book talks about a side of racism that isn't talked about. The book features a lot of Central and Southern Illinois books which is why I was especially interested in it. These were town that had signs that said "(Black pejorative), Don't let the sun go down on you in our town."

Indeed, my hometown is featured as a town where ther
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