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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.

East Alton


Basic Information

Type of Place
Metro Area
St. Louis
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Written Evidence
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
1930 4502 0
1940 4680 1
1950 7290 1
1960 7630 1
1970 7309 4
1990 7063 11
2000 6830 64

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


email 1/2008

Message: Things haven’t changed all that much in E. Alton. I moved to the area about four years ago and was looking for a place to live.
With a daughter in junior high, one very pertinent question was “how are the schools here?” I asked a prospective landlord this and his answer was, “Well I tell you this…we don’t have none of THEM PEOPLE in our schools .”
Again, this was in 2004…
According to FEPC (Fair Employment Practice Committee)Chairman Malcom Ross, “The town’s policy put it on conflict with President Roosevelt’s Executive Orders against discrimination in defense industries because important war plants of Olin Industries were there [Western Cartridge Company]. The company claimed it could not hire Blacks because for over 50 years the town had not permitted Blacks to live or work there.”

According to Ross, quoting F. W. Olin, the ordinance dated back to 1895 when a “Negro boy” committed some crime and men had gone hunting for him with shotguns, but he got away. His angry pursuers reportedly swore that no Negro would ever again set foot in East Alton. One exception was made for a Negro already working for Mr. Olin, long since dead at the time of Ross’s writing in 1948. Ross reported that the town had grown from a few families at the end of the 19th Century to a sizable town over 50 years without any Negro ever having stopped the night. The chapter details the conflict with FEPC over this situation. The FEPC failed to alter the town’s ways.