“Every time I walk around, eyes are on me.”. Lewis joined the little enclave two years ago, expecting a short visit but staying after his girlfriend, one of Harris’ daughters, got pregnant. [12] Goodavage, Maria. Another lives across the street with her boyfriend, Nicholas Lewis. Very often, especially in well-to-do suburbs that didn’t want to be known as racist, they had no name at all. “Every time you come into town, or you go into a gas station, or in a store, people look at you,” said Victoria Vaughn, a biracial 17-year-old who has been coming to Vienna for years to visit her white grandparents. But not for long. League of Women Voters of Corvallis, Oregon, Law Enforcement & The Civil Rights Movement, VIDEO: Celebrating our History, Making New History. This story was produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. It was published from 1936 until 1964, when the passage of the Civil Rights Act deemed it no longer as necessary. More often, everyone - both Black and white - simply knew the unwritten rules. Required fields are marked *. Sundown towns in the United States by state‎ (21 C) Pages in category "Sundown towns in the United States" The following 10 pages are in this category, out of 10 total. This specific repeal has support from the NAACP, both locally and nationally. One day after he surrendered, he was sentenced to 180 years in prison. “I don’t want him out here where (white people) are all he sees.”. Real estate agencies as well as individual landlords also often refused to sell or rent to African Americans. If you stop for gas, look for a well-lit gas station with security cameras. We wanted to take a close look at systemic racism, trying to understand how something that is so crushingly obvious to some people can be utterly invisible to others. But the easygoing race relations of his youth were lost, he said, when President Lyndon Johnson, who pushed through some of the most important civil rights legislation of the 20th century, “came along and turned it into a bunch of racial bullshit!”. But in Vienna, as in hundreds of mostly white towns with similar histories across America, much is left unspoken. He found them outside Los Angeles, in midwestern farming villages and in New England summer towns. If he hasn’t felt the sting of outright racism in Vienna, he’s exhausted by how residents constantly watch him. [3] Schneider, “The Black Laws of Oregon”, 20. Applegate came from Maine, which had been a free state since 1820 and was less hostile to African Americans, making him a more likely advocate of the states African American population than the Missouri-born Burnett. By 2014, when racial conflict famously erupted there, it was 67% black, so it was certainly no longer a sundown town. “I’ve had Black friends. In others, the policy was enforced through intimidation. The violence erupted in August, 1954, after the arrest of a 31-year-old resident, Thomas Lee Latham, who was accused of brutally beating an elderly white woman with a soft drink bottle and trying to rape her granddaughter. This part of southern Illinois had at least a half-dozen sundown towns. [9] The African American people of Portland were socially barred from many aspects of normal life that the white people of Portland could do easily. They are not what you’d expect to find here. Openly racist laws are now largely illegal, and few towns want the infamy of being known for keeping out Black people. Loewen, the historian, says the number is clearly dropping, categorizing many as “recovering” sundown towns, where organized resistance to Black residents has ended but the racial divide can remain wide. He’s an unassuming man deeply in love with his young son, Nick. By then, the town’s Black residents were gone. “That’s what formed this nation!,” said Rick Warren, a 65-year-old in blue jeans and a T-shirt, only partially joking. “The Black community, from that point on, disappeared from Vienna,” said Darrel Dexter, a historian and high school teacher who has studied the violence of 1954. “When they burned them out that time, a lot of them just packed their bags and went up north,” said Stevens, who said he hated to see Black classmates driven from town. Black people had lived in and around Vienna since the late 1820s or early 1830s, said Dexter. [5] Schneider, “The Black Laws of Oregon”, 35. She and her husband moved to Vienna about 10 years ago from northern Illinois, chasing work and a cheaper cost of living. In places still seen as sundown towns, many Black people now follow their own rules: Avoid them if possible, and lock your car doors if you have to drive through. Natalia Fernández, OMA Archivist, worked with Professor Moule to co-teach the course. The two credit class began with a meeting in the OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center reading room with an introduction to archives and archival research. But mostly it’s a place for a bunch of gray-haired men to pass the time, drink light beer and relive a sliver of their childhoods every day at noon with reruns of “Gunsmoke,” the TV show about a marshal whose steely nerve and Colt revolver kept the peace in the American West. The older woman died days later. Everyone who lived there was Black. The Gunsmoke Club reflects that. “It’s real strange and weird out here sometimes,” said Nicholas Lewis, a stay-at-home father. These laws refer to the town ordinances that numerous cities across the country recognized that communicated that African Americans and sometimes other minorities such as Latinos and Asians were not to still be in the city limits when the sun had set. [10] Oregon alone has 24 towns that are either suspected or confirmed Sundown Towns based on oral histories and archival research of people like James Loewen. A couple of blocks from the field where Vienna’s Black community once lived, down a narrow dead-end street, a grandmother with pink fingernails and an easy laugh watches over an extended family that spans much of America’s Black-white divide. [2] Despite Applegate’s advocacy, four years later, another Exclusion bill was passed, with the amendment that any African Americans who were already Oregon residents were allowed to remain in the state. They were called “grey towns,” in some parts of America, “sunset towns” in others. “They just brush everything under the rug.”, There was the time one of the kids was called “burned toast” by a classmate. [6] Corvallis Gazette Times, October 6, 1926, 2, in Schneider, “The Black Laws of Oregon”, 93. “We don’t have any trouble with racism,” said a twice-widowed woman, also white, with a meticulously-kept yard and a white picket fence. But many also still have tiny Black communities living alongside residents who don’t bother hiding their cold stares of disapproval. Around here, almost no one talks openly about the violence that drove out Black residents nearly 70 years ago, or even whispers the name these places were given: “sundown towns.”. Their clubhouse, a few miles outside Vienna, is an old gas station, later turned into a convenience store and now a gathering place for a dozen or so friends. The 1950 census showed 54 Black people living in Vienna. In the 1920s in Oregon, when the KKK membership was flourishing, the Klan was often used to threaten African Americans into leaving town either temporarily or permanently. A lot of discrimination that African Americans faced was based in racist social conventions, customs, or traditions that pass from person to person, and generation to generation. This bill would exclude all African Americans from the territory altogether, under the guise of respecting the status of Oregon as a free state. Sundown Towns in Oregon Display, 2013 This Fall term Professor Jean Moule again taught her course TCE 408H “Sundown Towns in Oregon” and she invited the OMA to be a part of the classroom experience! Exhibit Curation and Design: TCE 408H Class and Natalia Fernández, Oregon Multicultural Librarian, Your email address will not be published. Vienna would almost certainly fall into that category. [8] Schneider, “The Black Laws of Oregon”, 95. The situation is far more subtle today than when Black residents were forced out. “I don’t want my son raised down here,” he said. “Really, we got a good country, and I think there is probably some racism going on. She was in Vienna on a recent Saturday to join a rally organized after a group of Vienna High School students created a social media account that included the phrase “hate Black people” in its title. “‘Green Book’ Helped Keep African Americans Safe on the Road.” PBS. Natalia Fernández, OMA Archivist, worked with Professor Moule to co-teach the course. Harris has custody of three grandkids while Lewis cares for the fourth, an 18-month-old in Spiderman pajamas on a recent afternoon. They are pro-Trump, anti-abortion, virulently against gun control and distrust the coronavirus rules and the media (though after warming up they were very welcoming to us). Sundown towns, sometimes known as sunset towns, are all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practice racism in a form of segregation by enforcing restrictions excluding people of other races via some combination of … Sometimes, that history makes those minorities avoid them. An oversight during an 1853 legislative “housecleaning” and codification initiative omitted the exclusion law, resulting in its automatic repeal.

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