As mentioned in our podcast interview, Dr. James Loewen didn’t just write a book about sundown towns, he wrote THE book. He did a lot of research in small towns–especially in Illinois–which has enabled us to learn a lot about our own communities. (By the way, if you haven’t already, Loewen has a massive database on his website you should check out by following this link – Loewen’s website – Sundown Towns Database). But of all the questions we’ve asked, one stands out as most important; why does all this matter? As we lean into this question, three overall themes come to mind that address why this research matters.
When Dr. James Loewen decided he was going to research sundown towns, he figured he might find about 50 or so of these communities spread across the country. To his surprise, he claimed to uncover more than 500, and that was just in his home state of Illinois! He estimates that at its peak in 1970 there were approximately 10,000 sundown towns throughout the country. So what exactly are sundown towns?