Featured Book

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

By James W. Loewen

Publisher: New Press, Touchstone
Publication Dates: 2005, 10/3/2006

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In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, brings to light decades of hidden racial exclusion in America. In a provocative, sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, Loewen uncovers the thousands of “sundown towns”—almost exclusively white towns where it was an unspoken rule that blacks could not live there—that cropped up throughout the twentieth century, most of them located outside of the South. These towns used everything from legal formalities to violence to create homogenous Caucasian communities—and their existence has gone unexamined until now. For the first time, Loewen takes a long, hard look at the history, sociology, and continued existence of these towns, contributing an essential new chapter to the study of American race relations.

Sundown Towns combines personal narrative, history, and analysis to create a readable picture of this previously unknown American institution all written with Loewen’s trademark honesty and thoroughness.

From Publishers Weekly

According to bestselling sociologist Loewen (Lies My Teacher Told Me), "something significant has been left out of the broad history of race in America as it is usually taught," namely the establishment between 1890 and 1968 of thousands of "sundown towns" that systematically excluded African-Americans from living within their borders. Located mostly outside the traditional South, these towns employed legal formalities, race riots, policemen, bricks, fires and guns to produce homogeneously Caucasian communities—and some of them continue such unsavory practices to this day. Loewen's eye-opening history traces the sundown town's development and delineates the extent to which state governments and the federal government, "openly favor[ed] white supremacy" from the 1930s through the 1960s, "helped to create and maintain all-white communities" through their lending and insuring policies. "While African Americans never lost the right to vote in the North... they did lose the right to live in town after town, county after county," Loewen points out. The expulsion forced African-Americans into urban ghettoes and continues to have ramifications on the lives of whites, blacks and the social system at large. Admirably thorough and extensively footnoted, Loewen's investigation may put off some general readers with its density and statistical detail, but the stories he recounts form a compelling corrective to the "textbook archetype of interrupted progress." As the first comprehensive history of sundown towns ever written, this book is sure to become a landmark in several fields and a sure bet among Loewen's many fans.

Black History Month

The Origins of Black History Month

Black History Month

What we now call "Black History Month" originated in 1926, founded by Carter G. Woodson as "Negro History Week." The month of February was selected in deference to Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in that month.

Carter G. Woodson

The son of a slave, Carter G Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875. He began high school at the age of 20 and then proceeded to study at Berea College, the University of Chicago, the Sorbonne, and Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1912.

Carter G Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 to train Black historians and to collect, preserve, and publish documents on Black life and Black people. He also founded the Journal of Negro History (1916), Associated Publishers (1922), and the Negro Bulletin (1937).

Woodson spent his life working to educate all people about the vast contributions made by Black men and women throughout history. Mr. Woodson died on April 3, 1950 and Black History Month is his legacy.

Duke Spotlight

Chandra Guinn

Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories

By Chandra Guinn, Director
Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

During our biennial “Roots to Rights: Black and Jewish Spring Break” trip into the heart of the South, we visit many sites of the Civil Rights struggle. As we are currently preparing to travel with Duke students, the 2016 national Black History Month theme, Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories (selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) provides deep inspiration.

While Black History Month reminds us to remember, for this brief note I wish to urge us to envision a better, brighter future for our educational institutions based on all that has come before. When we think of hallowed grounds, there are a lot of places for us to travel to, literally and metaphorically, or perhaps as is the case for me, you might need only to appreciate the ground on which you stand. I write this from my office at Duke University, in a building designed by no less an architect than Julian Francis Abele, the first Black student admitted to the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and the department's first black graduate in 1902. Since sometimes ‘it is not where you’re from but where you’re at’ that matters, my mind immediately goes to the hallowed grounds of educational institutions where many have sought to better themselves and their communities through the acquisition of greater knowledge and wisdom.

In addition to Duke, there are many institutions that come to mind as sites of Black history including:

For me, honoring/observing Black History Month is an act of reparation because it is an important first step in acknowledging the very humanity of Black people. Individually and collectively, we must reflect on this history because as is the case for other groups in our society ‘we too, must never forget’. If we do, it will be at our own peril. We must act with intention to be, to do, and to have all that was ours from the beginning. We must claim our birthrights as if we were original owners and not just unentitled inheritors of a legacy or a dream. It was bought with our blood, sweat, and tears on grounds that are now hallowed. It is especially at sites of higher learning where this truth should be embraced and demonstrated. There is lots to be said for lessons learned the hard way through the education of the hallowed grounds of the streets. There is also a lot to be said for book learning in "fancy" schools that our ancestors were denied access to because truth be told they were even denied access to books. We must never forget that there is no U.S. history without us; that there is no United States without us. And when we encounter in these "fancy" schools someone who knows more about us than we do about ourselves, take it as a reminder that we must live beyond February. We must return to some of the most hallowed grounds—educational institutions to re-member ourselves or to discover on these hallowed grounds the truer America, the one we perhaps thought we already knew.

Contemporary student protests are nothing new and not isolated. They are inevitable in the evolution of institutions because of the hard-fought battles to not be rendered invisible in sites where intellectual inquiry and understanding are sought. Protests should in fact be expected since there are few, if any, examples of institutions that have taken seriously the true call to be fully desegregated. For that call is about more than co-locating bodies; it was/is about decolonizing minds. And since we got here through protest, which most of the time has been experienced as a contest, then we must know/anticipate that more protest would be the only redress for battles yet to be won.

Who has the plan for full desegregation of higher education? What school has truly transformed the curriculum—reimagined itself from admissions to alumni affairs to maximize the talent at the ready in the nation, if not on their own campus to create something truly special. If such an institution exists I’d like to know of it. Where is the committee to imagine a fully transformed campus to be realized by 2050? I only see/know those created to react to the angst of 2015 and the truth is, those issues are already in our rearview mirror and continued reflection on them obscures our vision when it comes to the very hard work that must be done to create the institution of the future. As we prepare to welcome the Class of 2020, let us try to see more clearly the path forward or, better yet, as Ralph Waldo Emerson admonished us “[d]o not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” With the right inputs and insights we may become something much better than we ever envisioned we could be . . . not just good in this place but greater than that which previously was put upon these hallowed grounds. Let us reflect on Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories for Black History Month 2016 and draw upon the spirit of Sankofa and once we have returned to the past, let us take forward with us the inspired memories and ideas to a better, brighter future.

Beyond 'Black Lives Matter' by Charles M. Blow

A Noteworthy Article from the New York Times


The Black Lives Matter protesters took some criticism for what others viewed as a lack of clear focus and detailed agenda. But in truth, raising an issue to the point where it can no longer be ignored is the grist for the policy mill. Visibility and vocalization have value.

In the same way that Occupy Wall Street forever elevated that concept of income inequality, the Black Lives Matter protesters have elevated the idea of inequity in policing as it relates to minority communities.

Protests following the grand jury decisions in the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner on Staten Island have largely died down. Those stories no longer command front page placement or lead the news. The news machine, hungry for newness, as is its wont, has moved on to measles and back to the Islamic State’s medieval murder tactics.

But, as is often the case, there was no full resolution or reconciliation. The issue of police-community relations was raised but not solved. The memory of mistrust still wafts through the air like the smell of rot being carried by the breeze.

Full text of the column can be read here.

Black Lives Matter

Alice Walker Reads Sojourner Truth

March Is National Women's History Month

"Our History is Our Strength!" The National Women's History Project

The 2016 theme is "Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government."

Womens History Month

Duke University Women's Center

... is dedicated to helping every woman at Duke become self-assured with a streetwise savvy that comes from actively engaging with the world. It welcomes men and women alike who are committed to gender equity and social change.

Duke U. Women's Center

Website Spotlight

The latest trends and insights shaping diversity on the college campus, featuring exclusive content from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A Noteworthy Article: Diversity Courses Are in High Demand: Can They Make a Difference?

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