Home » Illinois » DeKalb

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?
Strongly Republican
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
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 2579
1900 5904 11
1910 8102 13
1920 7871 17
1950 11708 4 male
1960 18486 53
1970 32949 597
2010 44030 5596 1732

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


“When I taught at Northern Illinois U., 1959 67, DeKalb allowed no black students to rent in town nor were they welcome in local bars and restaurants (the campus itself was even segregated for a time).” — historian Mel Dubofsky, email, 6/2002.
Two people told me the local oral history that a deal was cut, whereby DeKalb did not contest Sycamore’s right to remain the county seat, even though it was smaller than DeKalb, if it would take DeKalb’s blacks. One retired NIU professor:
“According to local legend, in the early days of DeKalb County, Illinois (ca. 1850s), when the county was organized there was the usual county seat battle between two towns: DeKalb and, four miles away, Sycamore. It was resolved in this fashion. Sycamore became the county seat on the condition that it accept all the blacks moving into the area. When I moved to DeKalb in 1959 for my first teaching position, it was still nearly lilly white. Even NIU black faculty (a very few) lived then in Sycamore.”
A friend in Illinois educational circles then reported to me: “long time residents think there may be something to this story. There is a well established black community in Sycamore, occupying the same neighborhood where they have resided for many decades.”
On the other hand, one local historian retorted that this idea was nonsense and he had never heard it.