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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.

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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  1. There is a very interesting “Green Book” revisitation I heard yesterday on NPR (radio). This new description of sunset towns describes the horrid treatment of Black Americans everywhere. I grew up in Michigan, Muskegon where foundry workers were recruited/forced? North in 1942. I remember hearing and then saw massive segregation efforts around Dearborn about 1960. This was disgraceful. Lots of white Americans kept this up, and white churches were little concerned or help. I remember a controversy as my 1st Congregational Church got all huffy when a member of the senior Choir brought his girlfriend into the choir. There was whispering, lack of respect and they both went away. I was in high school then, and thought it was terrible behavior for the “leading church”. But it happened.

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