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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.

General

Iowa

Basic Information

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

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Was there an ordinance?
Sign?
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
1860
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

Comments

Iowa was the only northern state to ratify black
suffrage before the 15th Ammendment.

Although Iowa fought with the Union in the Civil
War, some towns had significant Copperhead
populations. Many towns along the Missouri border,
in particular, had been founded by pro-slavery
whites.

“In the half decade of the sixties following the Civil
War and during the seventies the organized
activities and individual happenings within the
Negro group still found a place in the newspapers,
but as the emotions of the Civil War era cooled and
Negroes gradually took their place in the everyday
life of northern communities, the special interest
and the ready sympathy of earlier days waned; as
the Negro population increased, the number of
newspaper items devoted to their affairs
decreased… By the late eighties and certainly in the
nineties the infrequent reports concerning Negroes
are nearly always found on the page devoted to
crimes %u2014 theivery, murder, rape. If colored
groups
engaged in worthwhile educative or social projects
%u2014 and certainly they did %u2014 newspaper
readers were
not often apprised of it. Honors bestowed upon a
member of the Negro group passed by unnoticed.
When President Harrison appointed an Iowa Negro
minister to Liberia in 1890, the press in the State
ignored it; when he died at his post a few months
later, no notices appeared.”
– “The Negro in Iowa”, Leola Bergmann, Iowa
Journal of History and Politics, 1948

Between 1880 and 1930, coal mining was a
significant
part of the Iowa economy. Coal mining towns
differed
considerably in their acceptance of black residents
and
coal workers, with some towns becoming sundown
and others developing a vibrant black community.
Coal reserves began declining in the 1920s and the
industry was completely wiped out by the 1930s.

Iowa’s peak Ku Klux Klan membership in the 1920s
was 350,031, according to Arwin Smallwood’s Atlas
of African-American History and Politics.

“The thesis that active white racism drove people
out
you’ll look hard for evidence of that in Iowa. But as
far
as not selling homes to blacks, restrictive
covenants,
railroad unions that didn’t hire blacks that was
real.”
– Hal Chase, History Professor at Des Moines Area
Community College, quoted in “Racism Lurking at
Sundown”, Des Moines Register, 27 February 2006

As of the 2000 census, about one quarter of Iowa’s
99
counties had less than 15 black residents.