Home » California » Brea

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?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
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
1930 2435 0
1940 2567 0
1950 3208 2
1960 8487 1
1970 18447 14
1980 27913 56
1990 32873 355
2000 35410 447

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


A 1926 restrictive covenant in Brea reads “That
no part of said premises shall ever be sold,
conveyed, transferred, leased or rented to any
person of African, Chinese or Japanese descent.”

While Brea had no official sunset ordinance,
“there was an understanding among the citizens of
the city that the police would enforce this nonlegal,
or non formal, agreement. Some or possibly most
of the people assumed that this was a law.”

A Fullerton, CA, attorney who worked on fair
housing issues in the 1960s and 70s reports that
Brea may have had a sign reading “Nigger: Don’t let
the sun go down on your back in this town.”

“There were no Negroes in Brea; they were not
allowed. [In the 1930s] we had a shoeshine man
who we called Neff and he always spoke to all the
kids and everything. He had a little cigar store in
front of the barbershop; another man ran a little
cigar counter and he [Neff] had the shoeshine
place. But at six o’clock, some people say ten but I
believe it was six, the bus came through and he left
for Fullerton. Fullerton has always had more colored
people. He was an awful nice old man, but Brea just
would not allow them to be here and I don’t know
how they stopped them…
“I can remember when I was very, very small,
there was a big rally held somewhere down in
Fullerton or Anaheim, I believe it was Anaheim, in a
big stadium… Nearly every man I knew joined the
Ku-Klux Klan. A lot of people did. I know my
husband did, and my father did, and all of my
friends, or a lot of them did….
“I’m sure that it must have changed because
we have Negro people here, but it seems like they
come in and they don’t stay. I think that’s because
there are not too many of them here. Somebody
said we have 13 Negro families in Brea…”
-former resident of Brea

“Brea used to have a law that no black person
could live in town here after six o’clock. See,
Fullerton had its colored section, Placentia at that
time was predominantly a Mexican town. But for
years there were no black people in Brea at all. The
shoeshine man was black, but he had to leave town
by six o’clock. It was an illegal law, of course, if
you’d gone to the Supreme Court… we never had
them in the school. I never had a black person in
the school the whole time I was superintendent or
principal. I don’t know if the high school did.”

Brea, CA, has joined The Inclusive Communities Partnership of the National League of Cities.