We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



You don’t have to have seen In the Heat of the Night to know that dozens of towns made a practice of keeping blacks and other minorities from breathing amid their white citizenry, especially after sundown. The Civil War didn’t end: It merely replaced guns with city ordinances, bloodshed with oral agreements…well, we kept some bloodshed, too. As author James W. Loewen painstakingly documents, cities overtly and covertly barred minorities—sometimes blatantly enough to have a sign at the city limits saying so. In his new book, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, Loewen throws hefty research at this topic, fact-checking misleading or faulty census data, collecting oral histories, and sifting through musty city records. His findings produce some scary quotes and scarier scenes—such as the siren that used to go off in Villa Grove, Ill., at 6 p.m. every night warning blacks to leave town. Don’t be fooled; his findings don’t just date to the Jim Crow era. No, his data go right into present times, too. Loewen reads at 6 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Jason Cherkis)