Home » Ohio » Amherst

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1890 1648
1900 1758
1910 2106
1920 2485
1930 2844 0 0
1940 2896 1
1950 3542
1960 6750 6
1970 9902 3
1980 10620
1990 10332 22
2000 11797 62
2010 12021 85 27 83

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


Testimony of a nearby resident: “Amherst OH still has a 6 o’clock siren which supposedly used to signal blacks to leave town. Well, basically every day at 6 PM, this very distinct siren goes off. Most people don’t even notice it
anymore. I live in Lorain, and only went to school in Amherst, so I rarely even heard it. I think I first heard about it from a friend at tennis practice,because we were playing at about 6 oclock, and he had heard, from his baseball coach, that it used to be a siren to warn all the black people to leave town. I guess the baseball team was curious as to why the siren kept going off during their practice and they asked their coach. I’m actually not sure where the siren comes
from, I assume it’s from somewhere in the center of town, because the high school is very near there. I talked with a few of my other friends about it once,
and they simply confirmed the story. We never quite figured out why the siren still goes off.Amherst itself is a very small town and I would say, at least 95% white. It used to have a really big sandstone quarry in it. It borders on Lorain, which has an incredibly high minority population due to the steel
and Ford plants there.”

A former coach at an Oberlin, OH high school claims that the surrounding towns were all-white, by design, and there were many incidents vis-a-vis his black
players and racial slurs. Amherst and Wellington were two such towns. “The n-word was used, things like that. Middle-school kids would taunt my players with the n-word. Parents in the stands said things like

Message 01/06/2008:
Having grown up in Oberlin as an African American (Colored born in 1934)person. We always knew that we didn’t have any business in Amherst. In So. Amherst there was a liquor store. My father ran a barber shop in Oberlin and many of his customers came from Amherst, you could hear the rhetoric in the barber shop. It was just a place we didn’t go.

According to a former resident, “No question, as late as the mid-60s when I was a kid there, this was a sundown town. Black people driving down Rt. 58 from Lorain to Oberlin didn’t stop in Amherst, even for gas or fast food. There was a 6 o’clock whistle, from the city hall or the neighboring fire station if I recall. Many older adults told me that was “time for the niggers to be out of town”. Some of these conversations took place at the time I lived there — others 20 and 30 years later. There were no people of non-Caucasian ancestry living there in the mid 60s. Nor any as far as I know for at least 10 or 15 years after that. I was never aware of any formal codification. It was all word of mouth and behavioral.”

Another former resident, growing up in Amherst in the late sixties and seventies explains: “It wasn’t until 1978 or 1979 that my parents told me why the fire alarm went off everyday at 6:00pm. The phrase was ‘The sun never sets on a N____ in Amherst.’ I heard racial slurs and signs of prejudice frequently.”

Testimony from another resident: “My husband was a fireman since the early 1960s. The 6 o’clock whistle was a siren check every day for the firemen. In itself, it had nothing to do with telling certain people to get out of town. I think the legend persisted when racists started using the sound of the siren by saying it was a call [for minorities] to leave town… but the siren was never used for that purpose.”
Hence,although the siren may have originally served some other purpose, some residents of Amherst and surrounding areas have come to define it that way.