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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sundown Towns

My wife asked me a couple weeks ago if I had ever heard of "sundown towns". I said, "Beg pardon?" She was listening to something on public radio, and she must have heard an interview with sociologist James W. Loewen, author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, published in October 2005 by New Press (562 pp.).

The basic premise of the book was that certain towns had systematically kept blacks and others (Jews, Hispanics) out, particularly after dark, in the period from the codification of the Jim Crow laws in the 1890s to around the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 (He died on this date, actually.) People might work there, but they didn't sleep there. On the radio interview, Loewen noted that DWB (Driving While Black) was an enforcement mechanism of this phenomenon.

Based solely on my wife's description, I guessed that the book would claim that this was not solely a function of Southern racism, which people in the North would often point fingers at, but in Northern suburbs as well. Indeed, Loewen does make this point, but also includes small town America. The Washington Post has an interesting article about the book. You may have also seen the author on C-SPAN in recent months, I understand.

In a quick search, this book was often paired with Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Kenneth T. Jackson from 1987 and Loewen's 1996 book Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.

I'd really be interested to know if any of you have read any of the books cited, and what you think of them, whether you've ever heard of the term "sundown towns" in a context other than this book.
Something oddly comforting about a rout. Your team loses by one or two points, you wonder, "What if?" They lose by 16, you say, "No way!" My team loses the final game for the second year in a row. Congratulations, Michael!. And fourth place (out of eight) for me.

I was going to tape the game, then watch it in the morning, before hearing the score. But my DVR whacked out just before game time, so that not only could I not record the game, I could not watch anything I had already recorded, AND I had but a handful of stations (the seven networks- including PBS, TV Guide Channel, Weather Channel and a couple others). I was spared watching this thrashing, for which I am grateful.
Blogger has looked at my site and apparently determined that it is NOT a spam site. Joy, joy: no word verification each time I post, or even write a draft.

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