Sundown towns remain problem

tags: sundown towns

James W. Loewen is emeritus professor of sociology from the University of Vermont and visiting professor in African American Studies at the University of Illinois. His books include "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "Sundown Towns." He is a native of Decatur.

Recently, Tom Kacich wrote a column in The News-Gazette, "Racism accusations need better proof," referencing my website on "sundown towns,", and particularly my list, "Possible Sundown Towns in IL." Sundown towns are communities that for decades were "all white" on purpose.

His headline is right. More research is needed. That's why the list is headed "Possible Sundown Towns in IL" (my italics).

However, Fisher, Mahomet, Tolono, Rantoul and Homer — mentioned in the article and by Rohn Koester, who appeared before the Champaign County Board — almost surely were sundown towns.

(About one other town, Sadorus, mentioned in the article, I have no information other than the 1990 census, which shows a population of 469, all white. I have not studied Sadorus, since I rarely focus on towns smaller than 1,000.)

Kacich wrote that the Champaign County Board was "even told to acknowledge that a number of communities in Champaign County had been so-called 'sundown towns.'" 

His use of "even" implies that such an acknowledgement might be outlandish. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. 

Sundown towns occur throughout central Illinois. Confirmed examples near Champaign County include Arcola, DeLand, Monticello and Paxton.

What about within the county? Let's just focus on one town that Kacich listed, Tolono.

Here are snippets of actual interviews done in Tolono in 2010:

— Two female residents, interviewed together at their workplace: "It is a known fact that black people weren't welcome in Tolono," said one. When (the older woman) went to high school, "there were no black people." When (the younger one) attended, some time after the mid-1990s, "there were two African-Americans and three mixed." The two African-Americans were continually harassed. The female African-American had to drop out, while the male graduated. The older woman added, "Some people come to the Tolono schools because they are all Caucasian."...

Read entire article at The News-Gazette