The Nadir of Race Relations in America

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Transcribed from the 23 August 2014 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

 

“Kenilworth was founded in 1889 by Joseph Sears, and he had four great principles that he put in its founding documents: no alleys; no fences; large, architect-designed houses; and no Jews or Negroes. The first three expired after twenty years, but the fourth one never expired.”

Chuck Mertz: Sociologist James W. Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. He wrote the 2005 book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, and his second edition of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong was just published.

Good morning, Jim.

James Loewen: Hi! Glad to be with you.

CM: It’s great to have you on the show.

Oddly enough, I just found out our correspondent in Rio de Janeiro used to visit Ferguson when he was a kid, because his grandmother lived there. I asked him if he was surprised that this happened in Ferguson, and he said he was, because when he was a kid, thirty years ago, it was an all-white town. But he found out from a relative that at one point they put a wall right through Ferguson, separating the black side from the white side, and saying that after sundown blacks weren’t safe.

You weren’t certain if Ferguson was actually a sundown town. Why don’t you tell people what a sundown town is, and why that’s important.

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