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.