Sundown towns: Just how deliberate was institutional racism in the US?
On the subject of the history of race relations in the US, The Washington Post carries an interesting review of a new book called 'Sundown Towns' by James W. Loewen. Loewen argues that thousands of American towns kept themselves 'whites only' through deliberate policies between 1890 and 1960, aiming to drive out any black population and discourage any potential citizens of the "wrong" colour. These measures included "legal" ordinances banning the hiring of blacks or renting/selling them homes, informal "visits" warning visiting African Americans that "they must not remain in the town".
Such towns often posted signs at their city limits, carrying warnings such as "Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Set On YOU in Hawthorne", as one California town did in the 1930s.
Around 50 towns used mob violence, with many more relying on the threat of violence Loewen reports.
I think this helps to demonstrate how racial segregation in the US was not just 'the way things always had been', but a deliberate policy to legalise outright racism in the first half of the twentieth century. If this is so, perhaps we should not be as hesitant to use words like 'apartheid' to describe the situation existing in the US at that time.
Categories: US, Politics, Segregation, Civil Rights, Sundown Towns