Home » Michigan » East Grand Rapids

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

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

East Grand Rapids


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
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Don’t Know

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1940 4899 25
1950 6403 27
1960 10924 18
1970 12565 22
1980 10914 74
1990 10807 98 16
2000 10764 105 14 107
2010 10694 113 16 160

Method of Exclusion

  • Police or Other Official Action

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


*In 1940, 19 out of the 25 black residents were female, 1950 21 out 27 were female, and in 1960 13. The skewed gender ratio indicates there that were few to no black households in the decades.

email 2/2008

As a Grand Rapids (without the “East”) resident, I can assure you that I have heard quite a few of my African-American friends and acquaintances talk about driving the long way around to avoid being in or near EGR. Oh, one Latino co-worker, too, now that I think of it.

Common knowledge–even today. I haven’t heard a “day or night” distinction–most of the people I talk to just don’t want to be there ANYTIME.

“In each of these areas I have gotten to know and befriend police officers, either of the cities themselves or from neighboring communities. In each case, the police departments used the term ‘border patrol’ either as a name for themselves or for the practice of
pulling over minorities. Persons of colour are pulled over, questioned, possibly ticketed and sometimes
escorted out of town after dark. The practice becomes widely known, and generally discourages persons of
colour from returning, or considering the area as a place to live.
“In the mid 70s I lived two blocks from the East Grand Rapids-Grand Rapids city lines and this behavior was common after dark. Neighborhood residents, many
being African American, were derisive about the practice.”
-fair housing activist

We received an email stating that, “A couple years ago an African American family living in East Grand Rapids found what seemed to be a noose in their backyard. It was in the news then but I haven’t been able to find stories about it online. I have heard minorities I know say that they have been pulled over in East Grand Rapids for no apparent reason or a fake one like “I thought your tail light was out,” including my dad who is Puerto Rican.

Another email testimony confirms the disturbing behavior of county and city officials:
“I would say that East Grand Rapids is still very much a sundown town — and forget sundown. It is 24-7. I know of 2 instances that support this. One is of my biracial Native American/White friend being pulled over and questioned constantly when she drove to a friend’s house in East Grand Rapids. The questioning finally ended each time she told the police that she was a house cleaner. The other instance is even more glaring. A white friend was driving her Black coworker through East Grand Rapids and they were stopped by police. (The white friend was a doctor, and the Black coworker was her office manager, I think. So you would think that the white friend would have some status and clout. She was a woman, though, and from Detroit and “sounded Black”.) The police couldn’t find anything to ticket them on, so they claimed that my friend failed to stop at a stop sign or light. The case went to court. My friend mapped out her route showing that there were no stop signs or lights on it. The judge just said, “It’s your word against the policeman’s”, and enforced the ticket. These incidents happened in the 1980s and 1990s. East Grand Rapids still has a horrible reputation for racism.”

A longtime resident sent the following in a Feb, 2015 email: “i live in this town part time with my dad and i go to highschool here. and a disclaimer i am white. but i have seen Black people being discriminated against in the schools and on the streets. old white teachers especially will send black students to the office for no reason.”

A longtime, nearby resident sent the following in August, 2014: “I lived in Grand Rapids for years and have some more info to add for East Grand Rapids. East GR is technically a separate city from GR. I have no doubt that this is intentional and meant to keep black children out of their school district, which is also separate from the predominantly black GR school district. East GR consists overwhelmingly of middle to upper class white people (this should definitely be listed as the main ethnicity on your site for this location). It has a yacht club, a business that sells furs, and several upscale restaurants. It has a large police presence and the attitude of citizens toward outsiders (blacks) is not always pleasant. I worked in a pizza place in East GR for years and I remember a sweaty faced white business man coming into our establishment and demanding to use the phone to call the police. When asked what the trouble was (he seemed like it was an emergency) he angrily yelled, “There is an elderly blank woman begging for change outside the grocery store!” We were disgusted with him and asked him to leave. Several non-white friends of mine have been stopped by police after dark while walking through the neighborhood (it’s close to GR’s East Town, which has a large African American population). Another friend/co-worker of mine was Hispanic and would run around the nearby HS track after work sometimes (usually as the sun was setting), but gave that up when police continuously stopped to question him. Mind you, this is a track white people run on frequently”