A sundown town is a community that was all white and wanted to remain that way. They usually had either underhanded or overt strategies for keeping Black people from buying homes there or even passing through. In this year, where a racial reckoning is happening across various institutions in the United States, the subject of these former anti-Black communities has come back into the public eye.
BridgeDetroit published a piece earlier this summer looking at how metro Detroit cities that were once sundown towns, are wrestling with their anti-Black legacies. Some are more aggressive about unpacking this history than others, but what can’t be overstated is the degree to which keeping Black families have been by impacted those suburbs and the city of Detroit itself.
James W. Loewen is a sociologist who authored the book “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism”. BridgeDetroit reporter and producer Bryce Huffman talks with Loewen about the history of sundown towns in the United States and how this topic has re-emerged in the public consciousness after a charged scene in HBO’s new series “Lovecraft Country” makes sundown real.
In the very first episode of “Lovecraft Country” three Black protagonists are traveling through rural Massachusetts when they are stopped by a white police officer. The officer informs them that they are in a sundown town and they have little time to get out before sundown. Loewen says the scene was more dramatized than what may have happened in real life, but the fear of this experience is very real, he said.
Listen to the conversation with Loewen to learn more about this often untold piece of America’s brand of racism.