2008-02-03

Sundown Towns


I was over at Double Consciousness who led me to this blog. The topic of the post I was reading was about Sundown Towns.

From my personal experience, I've known about Sundown Towns my whole life. I know what ANNA stands for. I was born 6 miles from a Sundown Town. I remember being cognizant of it as young as four years old. I remember my parents took me to a carnival with another black couple. As we were walking around, eating popcorn and enjoying the day, me alternating between holding my father's hand, and being carried on his shoulders, a big tall white man with a red thermal shirt, a pair of overalls, and a green and white trucker hat walked by us. He was sweating from the heat, I don't know why but I assumed he worked at the carnival, and I don't even know why I remember such detail about him at all. I can't remember what happened, someone bumped into him or he bumped into someone, but something made him very upset. He shouted loudly "Damn Niggers, you better leave here before it gets dark or there will be hell to pay!" My parents and the other couple walked away and laughed it off. They were used to it, I just remember being scared and wondering why he called us "niggers". That was my first understanding of what that word meant, and I didn't know quite what it was, I just know it meant something bad by the way the man spoke to us. That was my first memory of blatant racism.

This person did a multi part post on Sundown Towns that I felt to be interesting. I will post part of it here, as it is very long, but it is very interesting.

SUNDOWN TOWNS


They existed all across America for over 100 years.

They still exist.

North, South, East, West.

They are called “Sundown Towns”, “Sunset Towns”, “Gray Towns”. The name comes from a hateful racist ultimatum, an ultimatum that stated in sign after sign, after sign, posted outside of all-white towns/suburbs/communities:

“Nigger, don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.”

“Whites Only Within the City Limits After Dark.”

Many times the message was point blank enforced with vicious brutal clarity:

Banished.

Leave.

Or Die.

And many black Americans did die.

In towns across America, many black people were murdered and the survivors were driven from their homes, property stolen. Towns with names like Greenwood, the “Black Wall Street” of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Towns like Rosewood, Florida. Towns like Wilmington, North Carolina, where America’s only known coup-d’etat occurred. Towns like Forsyth County, Georgia, to name a few.

Sundown Towns still exist all across America in the 21ST Century:

-Towns County, Georgia

-Deer Park, Washington

-Anna-Jonesboro, Illinois

-Vienna, Illinois

-Marion, Ohio

-Elwood, Indiana

-Owosso, Michigan

-Lamar, Missouri

-Vidor, Texas

-Berwyn, Illinois

-Cut and Shoot, Texas

-Ironwood, Michigan

Sundown suburbs:

-Levittown, Long Island, New York (now called Willingboro)

-Livonia, Michigan

-Parma, Ohio

-Cicero, Chicago, Illinois

-Darien, Connecticutt

-Naperville, Illinois

-Edina, Minnesota

Many U.S. presidents hailed from sundown towns:

-Theodore Roosevelt (Cove Neck, New York)

-William McKinley (Niles, Ohio)

-George W. Bush (Highland Park, Texas)

Besides presidents, famous Americans lived in Sundown Towns:

-Dale Carnegie (Maryville, Missouri)

-Woody Guthrie (Okemah, Oklahoma)

-Joe McCarthy (Appleton, Wisconsin)

-Emily Post (Tuxedo Park, New York)

Numerous inventions were created in Sundown Towns:

-Spam (Austin, Minnesota), Kentucky Fried Chicken (Corbin, Kentucky), Krispy Kreme doughnuts (Effingham, Illinois) and Tootsie Rolls (West Lawn, Chicago). Even “Tarzan” was created in a Sundown Town. Tarzan may have been born in “darkest Africa”, but his origins occurred in one Sundown Town (Oak Park, home of Edgar Rice Burroughs), and the proceeds from his very profitable novels and movies underwrote Burroughs’s creation of another sundown town (Tarzana, California).

______________________________________________________________________________________

“Is it true that ’Anna’ stands for ‘Ain’t No Niggers Allowed’?” I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I stopped to buy coffee.

“Yes,” the store clerk replied. “That’s sad, isn’t it?” she added, distancing herself from the policy. And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.”

“I understand racial exclusion is still going on?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.
“That’s sad.”

-conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October 2001 (1)


To continue reading go here.

32 comments:

Grata said...

LOL! The Mayors interview was funny. He is proof that racists don't exist, they are a construct of Black people's minds. As for the woman in the cafe.....

You know sometimes I think having such ignorant white people is not such a bad thing after all. The wide spread minority inferiority complex gets eased when you see useless human beings that happen to be white.

Siditty said...

The sad part is the Mayor isn't aware the KKK is still active there. I actually dated a white guy from Vidor, while in college, his family threatened to kill him and me and we weren't even serious. His uncles and cousins were very active in the local KKK.

I have been through Vidor, but never stopped there and I lived six miles away.

Grata said...

"The sad part is the Mayor isn't aware the KKK is still active there."

You think the Mayor doesn't know?

Siditty said...

He's probably Grand Wizard

TexasLadyBird said...

Highland Park is no longer a sun down town. They finally got a Black homeowner 6 (?) years ago.

:P

Ann said...

Siddity.

Thanks for your link to my "Sundown Town" post, it is much appreciated. If you do not mind I would like to post the "Vidor youtube" video on my post.

I am glad that my essay is getting wide recognition.

All of America needs to know the history of sundown towns.

It is a history that has remained hidden for far too long.

______________________________
grata:

"The sad part is the Mayor isn't aware the KKK is still active there."

You think the Mayor doesn't know?

February 3, 2008 3:09 PM

He knows. And the other one standing next to him could never look up when answering the reporter's questions.

As for the town acquiring "felon" status, all sundown towns acquired felon status when they expulsed all of their black citizens, raping, murdering and attacking in them in the process as well as stealing their property, much of which is still lived on by whites whose ancestors stole that property from the rightful black owners.

Soila. said...

It's sad that there's parts of your own country that you cant dare visit coz of fear of hateful/ scared people taking your life.

Ann said...

Oh, I forgot to add............

...........love your blog.

Soila. said...

I saw the CNN report when it aired. The woman in the cafe has some nerve talking about drawing the line when it comes to mingling and eating with blacks lol.

I'm not gonna be mean. I'mma let her pure white body and soul be.

Ehav Ever said...

I remember when I was going to school at Prairie View in Texas and Vider was one of the towns that students were warned not to stop in, no matter what time of the day it was. I say let them have their little raggedy towns backwards towns. I don't know why anyone would want to live there anyway. I passed near it a few times, and it isn't even worth moving to.

Siditty said...

Highland Park is no longer a sun down town. They finally got a Black homeowner 6 (?) years ago.

:P


Texasladybird:

LOL For real. I see blacks and hispanics in Highland Park all the time, working for people. I don't know if you remember from the Summer when there were water restrictions all of Dallas had them EXCEPT Highland Park? Even though most of the addresses say Dallas, TX, they are quick to pretend they are their own City when it comes to making sure the lawn is green. Same with the High School.

Los Angelista said...

It's interesting how folks tend to think Sundown Towns only existed in the South but so many of them were in the North. I'm from the Chicagoland area so I grew up hearing crazy stories about Naperville, Cicero, Berwyn and more.

Great post.

Siditty said...

Ann:

Thank you very much!!!!!!!!

----

Soila:

It is very telling and very sad that places like this still exist. Our country is over due for a frank talk about racism.

----

Ehav:

Yes Vidor is always the first town mentioned. Conroe used to be that way. I was born in Beaumont and I know I am still scared of Vidor. My husband doesn't understand why I don't like Conroe and Vidor. LOL

Grata said...

"He knows. And the other one standing next to him could never look up when answering the reporter's questions."

I noticed the Commissioner's dubious behavior and that was the tell tell sign. Very obvious that they are fake. And such peole call themselves human too.

Siditty said...

Los Angelista:

I worked for a company that was based in Naperville, IL when I was in college and every one told me it was a very white town LOL. My boss, who was white, was like I don't know why the President felt the need to set up shop there, he should be scared (the President of the Company was Indian).

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Sundown towns: Don't forget, the late 1980s in NYC: Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Howard Beach, Queens.

Miriam said...

Wow! thank you for this post, Siditty!

I lived in Chicago and I always had a creepy feeling around Berwyn. But I didn't know it was a 'Sundown Town'

I wouldn't be surprise if Elmhurst should be in there too!

creepy!

Soila. said...

Sid sd:
"...Our country is over due for a frank talk about racism."

Copy that!

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Siditty,

It is funny that you mentinoed Conroe. My mother moved there several years ago, she was originally born there. She once tried to convince me to move either there or in Houston. I was like, There is no way I am moving to Conroe. I'm not from there! My mother's oldest sister has two sons who hardly ever go there. One of them says it is because it is the Conroe Zone.

Besides I am closer to my father's family. My mother moved back to Conroe, in part because she wanted to do something to try to help the African American community there. She started a horse training program for at risk kids. From what I hear it is doing quite well.

TNT5150 said...

Edina, Minnesota a "Sun Down Town"...that is pretty funny. Don't get me wrong I believe that Sun Down Towns exist, but Edina is not one of them. First of all, way to many black people live there as well as folks of other ethnic groups. Secondly, Edina though a suburb is a suburd whose lines blur with that of Minneapolis as it is a first ring suburb with tons of entertainment options such as restaurants, bars, and shopping that all folks in the Twin Cities par take in.

Siditty said...

tnt5150

I don't think they were saying it is currently a sundown town, but it could have been in the past. Highland Park is a not a sundown town now, but maybe 100 to 50 years ago it could have been. Conroe, TX used to be a sundown town, but blacks live there now.

Miriam said...

Siditty:

this is off topic, but I felt it was important to clear the air.

I just emailed Evia (from the Ezine that promotes IR R) and asked point blank why I dont have access anymore and was I "kicked out".

She just answered my email:

No, Miriam, I haven't "kicked you out." I would only exclude someone if their subscription has expired or due to some other violation. Your subscription expires on March 1, 2008. Whenever anyone has had a problem accessing the blog, it's always on their end-- their server or Windows Vista or something like that? Grant had a similar problem accessing the blog and I think Vista was the problem. You might want to check with him.

Evia

Miriam wrote:

I don't seem to have access to your blog. Was I kicked out?
~~~~~~~~~~~

So, my apologies, I guess I wasn't 'kicked out' afterall.

classical one said...

"...Our country is over due for a frank talk about racism."


Not going to happen

Siditty said...

Not going to happen

C1:

True it won't. But it still needs to happen. Otherwise things will stay the same.

Grata said...

"C1:

True it won't. But it still needs to happen. Otherwise things will stay the same".


Until the white population feels there is a need for it, it won't happen as you want it.

But also I think there is some dialogue currently going on. Probably not to the satisfaction of blacks, but its there nonetheless.

classical one said...

I've spent allot of time in some of these towns, like Niles and Parma, there not bad as they once were, there's much worse in southern Ohio.

Siditty said...

I've spent allot of time in some of these towns, like Niles and Parma, there not bad as they once were, there's much worse in southern Ohio.

Yeah I think for the most part sundown towns are gone, there are still a few here or there. I just really wonder how racially progressive these towns really are now vs. then though.

Jess said...

Hi there, it's a real shame it still exists, but we've come a long way and I think we continue in a positive forward motion.

I believe racism will always exist in some form and not just among one group but many groups of many "races".

I don't tolerate it, from anyone, regardless of the color of their skin. :)

Jess said...

Oh I wanted add, about the racism thing---my mom is Jewish, she's originally from Brooklyn. Her parents moved she and her sister to Miami in the late 1950's. Mom recalls someone burning a cross on their front lawn. She was just a child. She never forgot that, who could? :(

Siditty said...

Jess thanks for posting. Racism is crazy isn't it. I remember in kindergarten being called a "spic" by a classmate. I started crying and I don't even know why. I just knew it was bad. Yeah the kid got into trouble, but my parents thought it was so funny and asked why I cried, I said because he said it mean. Even when we don't know what racism is, we know what it is. I show that clip of Vidor, TX because I was born in Beaumont and my parents consider that place home, but six miles away is a town they aren't even welcome in. It appears by some folks, they still aren't welcome :)

Janus955 said...

Just wanted to comment about the list of current Sundown towns. There were a number of Levittowns built: one in New York,one in Pennsylvania, and one in New Jersey. The one is New York is not Willingboro. Willingboro is the one in New Jersey and is NOT a sundown town. I moved there in the '70's as a teen, my family has lived there since and to give you an additional frame of reference: it is the town where Carl and Carol Lewis (the Olympians)and their siblings were raised.

Karra said...

Siditty, I just started reading your blog and I'm loving it.


I was born (and mostly raised) in Beaumont,just moved back to finish school and I don't know a single person who would stay in Vidor overnight. We talk about how it's 'not the way it used to be' and 'not everyone is racist' but I would never stay there past sundown. I've known all my life about Vidor but I didn't know there was a name for towns like that or that so many still existed.


Thanks for linking to this article. I'll probably spend the rest of the week reading your archives. Lol.