Sundown towns

I remember my first summer selling books in Tishomingo, Mississippi. I worked in small towns like Belmont, Iuka, and Burnsville, and meeting and dealing with the general public at 18 years old. I remember the first day Paul “The Rock” Dupuy trained me, during which we met a respectable white family. The father very casually made an extremely racist remark during the sale. I thought it was strange because Belmont was a small town (~1000) with not a lot of blacks in it (<100). Although this attitude was prevalent throughout Tishomingo, one of the top policemen in Iuka was a black transplant from Memphis (quite frankly my favorite customer that summer). I thought that there is a difference between racist guff and racist policy. Tishomingo, MS was no Cullman, AL. I heard that first summer about the signs posted in Cullman, Alabama informing certain groups about where they should not be when the sun goes down.

For the most part states like LA, MS, AL, and SC,have a lot of racist guff and less racist policy. My second summer, in Estille and Jones counties in Kentucky, was a marked contrast. Race wasn’t an issue, but people complained about city folk from Richmond. I met 3 or 4 black people in two Kentucky counties (most blacks lived in Richmond, home of Eastern Kentucky University). I always wondered how and why the demographics broke down like that.

The racial purity in rural Kentucky was no accident. I found an excerpt from a recent book called Sundown towns which discusses the formation of white’s only towns like Cullman, AL and Corbin, KY. After being in Columbus, Ohio for nearly six years (ugh!) I found this passage not surprising.

Even though sundown towns were everywhere, almost no literature exists on
the topic.7No book has ever been written about the making of all-white towns
in America.8 Indeed, this story is so unknown as to deserve the term hidden.
Most Americans have no idea such towns or counties exist,or they think such
things happened mainly in the Deep South. Ironically, the traditional South
has almost no sundown towns. Mississippi, for instance, has no more than 6,
mostly mere hamlets, while Illinois has no fewer than 456…

Dr James Loewen, the author, goes on to note that Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Connecticut were far more exclusionary in practice than was Louisiana or Alabama. I think I could quibble with the author about his parameters, but in general he has presented a good case of systematic racism. In my opinion, this was the impetus that essentially forced blacks into urban populations where they have been forced into poor school districts and the learned helplessness of subsidized housing and welfare benefits.

Often media elites ascribe racism to confederate states (or Republican voters), but Dr. Loewen presents an eye-opening case of persistent Yankee racism.

In my neck of the woods nearly a hundred years ago, blacks could own property out in the country without fear, which doesn’t seem to be the case in Kentucky or Indiana. Also, Louisiana has a population of rural Jews, a rare occurrence in the US (perhaps the world!). There is a lot more to the story than David Duke.

Sundown Towns website