Home » Alabama » Cullman

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?
Don't Know
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1870 0
1880 1,249 43
1890 1,982
1900 2,917
1930 11
1940 9,576
1950 7,523 17
1960 10,883 21
2000 13,271 27

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


Cullman’s 27 black residents include 13 children
(ages 1-17), none living with black adults; two
black married couples, both childless; 4 blacks
listed as in “non-family households” which may be
live-in domestic help or foster children, and some
young black males.

“I went to a wedding in Cullman several years ago
and when I would tell someone where I was going
or had been I was shocked to see how many people
told me the story about the sign at the city limits
saying ‘Don’t let the sun set etc.'”
-email correspondence

According to a graduate student from Cullman, the
sign warning blacks to be out of town before
sundown was still visible until the 1970s.

The sign may have stood until 1972, according to a
former hospital administrator from Cullman.

“[My mother] told us that… the drugstore where
Greyhound buses used to stop in Cullman had had
no black facilities at all. Blacks riding on the main
bus line from Nashville to Birmingham and points
south would step off in Cullman to look for
restrooms only to be turned back, and mothers
could be heard explaining to their crying children
that they would have to wait until farther down the
“My parents made it clear that my sister and I
were not to repeat their most liberal sentiments to
just anyone: ‘There are some things we just don’t
talk about outside the home.’ It was said that
educators like my father could lose their jobs for
their views, although I never knew of any such
incidents in Cullman…
“Cullman was proud of its lively classical music
scene that dated from the German immigrants of
the late nineteenth century. There were lessons
and recitals, music clubs, church music events that
drew interdenominational crowds, and a thriving
concert series. But whenever a touring group came
to town that included black members, none of the
hotels or motels would house them, much less the
arts patrons themselves; the blacks would have to
find rooms at St. Bernard Abbey, the Benedictine
monastery (which also included a college until the
1970s). The cultured Cullmanites left it to “the
Brothers” to do the right thing.
“It was also St. Bernard that integrated the city
swimming pool. One summer around 1965, the
pool office was telephoned by someone at St.
Bernard wanting to bring a group of out-of-town
youths who were staying there for a church retreat.
If the speaker indicated that the group was
integrated, the pool employee did not realize it.
When the group arrived, pool workers saw that its
members were black but admitted them without
comment. None of the white swimmers left early or
complained, and I never heard about the incident
except from my sister, who worked at the pool.”
-former resident of Cullman