At the 2020 Republican National Convention Nikki R. Haley, formerly the ambassador to the United Nations and governor of South Carolina said during her address that “America is not a racist country,”. But we all know that isn’t the truth. Many blacks in America have experienced some sort of racism in modern times but did you know there were towns in America where blacks weren’t allowed to live called sundown towns?
According to Wikipedia, “Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns, gray towns, or sundowner towns, are all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practice a form of racial segregation by excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.”
The book ‘Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism’ by James W. Loewen states that many of the sundown towns across America had signs at their city limits reading “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In ___”. But were there sundown towns in Ohio? According to research yes, and we’ve uncovered details of several sundown towns in Ohio.
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In modern days Fairborn Ohio is the home to many blacks including a great deal of students from nearby Historically Black University Central State. But in the mid-1960’s it is said that the city of Fairborn blacks or African-Americans were prohibited from living there and it was declared a sundown town.
Greenhills is a planned village established in Hamilton County in the 1930s. Greenhills restricted minorities from purchasing homes in the village. Most of Greenhills has been named a National Historic Landmark.
Marion is known for being the hometown and final resting place for America’s 29th President Warren G. Harding and while President Harding lived in Marion it was known as a sundown town. In 1919 it is said that all blacks were driven out of the town due to an attack on a white woman. Despite blacks not being allowed to live there, President Hardin employed blacks at the Marion Star despite criticism.
Near Youngstown, Niles was the birthplace of America’s 25th president William McKinley. But before his birth in the early 20th century, Niles was a sundown town. Niles even was said to include “a sign near the Erie depot…warn[ing] ‘niggers’ that they had better not ‘let the sun set on their heads.’”
Reading is a suburb of Cincinnati established in 1797, but in 1912 blacks were prohibited from living there or being in the city limits after dark. Census records show no blacks living in Reading from 1860 to 1960, a span of one-hundred years.
While it is hard to find out exactly why Shelby Ohio has an extremely low population of black that qualifies them as a sundown town. This has been documented in many US Census surveys including as early as the 2010 census where blacks made only .2% of its 9.317 residents.
As early as the 19th century Waverly was an established sundown town. According to Wikipedia, an anonymous author wrote “Waverly’s not having a single colored resident is a rare mark of distinction for a town of its size” and that Waverly had never had “a Negro or mulatto resident”. The Klu Klux Klan also had a large presence in Waverly.
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Has been categorized as a ‘probable’ sundown town, but for all his criteria lists ‘don’t know’. While racism was documented there, it is not fully known if blacks were prohibited from living in the area.
Below you’ll find a short documentary on sundown towns in Ohio and more in-depth research.
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