Author James W. Loewen: Sundown Towns in Southern Illinois Should Acknowledge Racist Past, Take Steps to Change

Historians in the News
tags: racism, sundown towns, Illinois

The author of a well-known book exposing sundown towns — where Black people were not welcome after dark — said these communities need to take three steps: acknowledge their racist past, apologize for it and take concrete steps to change.

“First,” James W. Loewen said, “they need to admit it: Yes, we did this.”

Loewen, a sociologist and the author of “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism” was speaking Tuesday at a virtual forum hosted by ProPublica Illinois exploring the history and current state of sundown towns, many of which have recently hosted Black Lives Matter protests and marches for the first time in their histories.

The event also featured Logan Jaffe, an engagement reporter for ProPublica Illinois, who wrote an article in November titled “The Legend of A-N-N-A: Revisiting an American town where Black people weren’t welcome after dark,” as well as Takiyah Coleman and Jessica Moore, two organizers of Anna’s first Black Lives Matter rally in June.

Loewen said that sundown towns, many of which continue to have nearly all-White populations, can enter the recovery phase after acknowledging and apologizing for their racist pasts. But only by taking “actual steps” to change, such as by making a concerted effort to hire Black teachers, police officers and other municipal employees and to diversify the town's population. 

Read entire article at Southern Illinoisan

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