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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

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

Arcola

Illinois

Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Surely
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
Sign?
No
Year of Greatest Interest
2006
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1860
1870 2332 0
1880 1515
1890 1733
1900 1995
1910 2100
1920 1831
1930 1686 0
1940 1837 0
1950 1700 0
1960 2273 0
1970 2776 1
1980
1990 2678 6
2000 2652 7
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

  • Police or Other Official Action
  • Private Bad Behavior

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black

Comments

2000 pop. 2652; bl. 7 [may be interracial children]; 1 B/W; 527 H; 146 H households. 7 NonHispanic bl. 1 bl. households w. 3 people.

Woman at City Clerk’s office, October 2002, when asked if Arcola had a law forbidding blacks, replied, “You mean, like a ‘Sundown Ordinance’? That’s what I’ve heard it called.” She said “Come back tomorrow, we’ll find it.” Next day, after we looked for two hours: “There certainly was one, but in terms of coming up with the piece of paper with it, we can’t do it.”
Many people told me or Carolyn Stevens that Arcola had an ordinance on the books, including the staff woman at Tuscola’s history museum, the Chamber of Commerce woman at Raggedy Ann museum in 2000, etc.

I had a conversation with the librarian and her mom, c.2003, and while we were talking, a teenage boy came into the library, overheard us, stopped, was shocked to hear that Arcola might have blacks. “When? Who?” [sounded like he was concerned and was a possible enforcer] We assure him, no, we were only talking hypothetically.

Many stories are recounted in SUNDOWN TOWNS, q.v. Also, Barbara Elliott Carpenter wrote an interesting novel for teenagers about Arcola with a sundown scene.

Arcola is 20% Mexican now, but that has not led to a broadening of minds re African Americans.

“In the summer of either 1969 or 1970 the high school received its first ever foreign exchange student. When it was announced that the visiting student would be from Africa, the city clerk, Raymond Holterman, announced to the city council that there was an old Sundown ordinance on the books which needed to be removed, and so it was. This was covered in the weekly newspaper, The Arcola Record-Herald, and so the details of this could be confirmed if someone has access to the newspaper archives.” – Former resident of Arcola, email, March 2012