- Type of Place
- Metro Area
- Politics c. 1860?
- Unions, Organized Labor?
Sundown Town Status
- Sundown Town in the Past?
- Was there an ordinance?
- Year of Greatest Interest
- Still Sundown?
Method of Exclusion
Main Ethnic Group(s)
Joe William Trotter relates in his book River Jordan (Lexington: UP of KY, 1998) that in 1851 Indiana “barred blacks from settlement altogether.” “‘No Negro or mulatto shall come into, or settle in the State, after the adoption of this constitution.” (p. 25) So the state became a “sundown state,” so far as any new African Americans were concerned.
African Americans lived in every Indiana county but one in 1890. By 1930, six counties had none and another fourteen had fewer than ten African American residents, even though many more African Americans lived in the state. 33 entire counties in Indiana were for decades all-white or almost all-white. Of these, I have on-site information that confirms the following 18 as sundown counties throughout or in substantial part: Adams, Brown, Crawford, Decatur, DeKalb, Dubois, Franklin, Greene, Huntington, Martin, Morgan, Porter, Scott, Switzerland, Washington, Wells, White, and Whitley. Fifteen suspects: Blackford, Carroll, Fountain, Hamilton, Jasper, LaGrange, Newton, Pulaski, Ripley, Starke, Tipton, Noble, and Warren.
Indiana witnessed many lynchings, especially in the period 1890-1900, and well into the 1930s. Many towns expelled their black residents during this time, and newspaper articles from the time reported on the activities:
The Chattanooga Daily Times, on 1/29/1901, printed an article entitled:
“Anti-Negro Crusade; Indiana River Towns Are Taking Drastic Measures; To Rid Themselves of the Obnoxious; Scores Indicted for Selling Their Votes %u2014 In Many Places No Negroes Are Allowed to Live”
“Cities and towns along the Ohio river have begun a crusade against the Negroes. The entire trouble dates back to the lynching of the Negroes at Rockport and Boonville for the murder of the white barber, Simmons, at Rockport one night late last month. The board of safety of this city has ordered the police to arrest all strange Negroes and bring them before the city police judge. If they can not give reason for being here they will be sentenced to the rock pile. The object of this order is to rid the town of an obnoxious class of Negroes. It is estimated that there are 2,000 colored men inthis city who absolutely refuse to work. The[y] spend their time in the colored saloons and low dives of the city and live the best way they can. On election day they are in the market and the man who bids the highest is the man who lands them.”
139 blacks in Rockport were indicted “for selling their votes on election day.” …
“Other towns in Indiana along the river are taking steps to drive the worst elements of Negroes away. In some towns no Negro is permitted to live. Vigilance committees have been appointed at Grand View, Enterprise, Tell City, and Leavenworth. Since the recent trouble at Newburg many of the colored people have left that town.”
Emma Lou Thornbrough writes in her book The Negro in Indiana (Indianapolis: IN Historical Bureau, 1957), “In spite of the fact that the total Negro population of IN showed a fivefold increase between 1860 and 1900 some parts of the state showed little or no increase, while there was actually a decline in some places. In some instances this was due to a deliberate anti-Negro policy … Some communities gained a reputation for being so hostile that no Negro dared stay overnight in them.” (p. 224)
Kathleen M. Blee’s book, _Women of the Klan_ (Berkeley: U CA P, 1991) includes the following:
“An 1831 law … required blacks moving to Indiana to post a bond against being a public charge and for a pledge of good behavior. The 1851 Indiana Constitution prohibited blacks and mulattoes from coming into the state and penalized those who encouraged them to do so. Neither statute was enforced often, but both indicate the climate of hostility toward blacks.” “In the counties where the 1920s Klan became strongest, the nonwhite population was negligible (except in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis).” “The small size of the state’s black population, however, did not diminish the fear and loathing in which blacks in Indiana were held by the majority white population. Indiana had the most drastic measures against interracial marriage of any Northern state; lynchings in the rural areas of Indiana terrorized the black population. Twenty black persons were lynched between 1865 and 1903, some by masked mobs. No one was ever convicted for the deaths.” (p. 77) “Many towns barred black residents. Sundown laws that prohibited blacks from remaining in town after sunset were enforced, though often unwritten, in nearly every small town in Indiana.” Her informants cite “Huntington County was one that had the rule on the statutes that the ground was given to the county for the county courthouse as long as no black person stayed overnight in the county. And they had that rule on the statutes.” Also Elwood, Linton. (p. 78)
“The American Protective Association, whose members pledged not to vote for Catholics or patronize Catholic-owned businesses” also was big in 1890s in Indiana. (p. 78)
Blee also quotes oral histories where the interviewees include statements:
“A resident of Indianapolis recalled the excitement of joining the Klan’s crusade: ‘It gave people a feeling that they were doing the right thing … really felt like they were doing the Christian duty.'” (p. 80) “‘They were always right, were always doing good, and they should be here today.'” (p. 128) “Employers sympathetic to the Klan, or fearing Klan reprisals, advertised for 100% American employees and refused to hire Catholics, Jews, blacks, new immigrants, or people of ‘poor character.'” (p. 152)
Yet people interviewed did not believe that they were racist:
“‘We didn’t hate the niggers. We had the Wills family that lived right here in [this] township. And they were like pet coons to us. I went to school with them…%u2019%u201D (p. 156) It’s one thing to serve known blacks in the back room of a restaurant. “‘I don’t think … anybody would have thought anything about it. I certainly wouldn’t have of our local Negroes. But, not a strange Negro. You get several of them together and they become niggers. Individually they’re fine people.'” (p. 156) Great example of “file folder phenomenon.”
Emma Lou Thornbrough, writes in her article “Segregation in Indiana During the Klan Era of the 1920s,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 47 #4 (3/1961), 598-99:
“The Indianapolis city council enacted a residential zoning ordinance in March, 1926. Declaring that ‘in the interest of public peace, good order, and the general welfare, it is advisable to foster the separation of white and negro residential communities,’ the measure made it unlawful for white persons to establish residence in a ‘portion of the municipality inhabited principally by negroes,’ or for Negroes to establish residence in a ‘white community,’ except with the written consent of a majority of the persons of the opposite race inhabiting the neighborhood.” Republican councilman proposed it; one Democrat opposed it as unconstitutional. “More than 800 cheering, hand-clapping, stamping spectators crowded into the council chambers while the ordinance was under consideration.” “The mayor … signed the ordinance, even though he admitted that the entire legal staff of the city was of the opinion that it was unconstitutional.”
—, “Indiana Becomes ‘Less Integrated’,” Indianapolis News, 1/4/1963:
“Negroes in Indiana become more segregated, not less, during the 1950s, a report by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission revealed today.” “…the Negro population increased 54.3% from 1950 to 1960 but the number of Negroes decreased in 46 of the state’s 92 counties. The report states that in 1960 two-thirds of all townships in Indiana had no Negro residents. ‘At the same time, 10 townships had 230,372 Negro residents, an average of 23,000 per township. In other words, 80% of Hoosier Negroes live in 1% of our townships.”
—, “Negroes Are Slighted Here,” Indianapolis Times, 4/8/1960:
“There are no Negroes in 30 of the 92 counties (according to a 1946 survey) and the reason is that they were not wanted.”
Emma Lou Thornbrough, in her 2000 work Indiana Blacks in the Twentieth Century (Bloomington: IN UP, 2000) wrties:
“By 1960, 79% of the nonwhite population in the state was concentrated in Indianapolis, Gary, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Evansville, and East Chicago.” There were some areas of the state where few African Americans lived. In 1960, only one black, a woman, in Beech Grove, a city of more than 20,000. In Speedway City, three blacks out of more than 9,000. Two of 9309 in East Gary. “In some towns in the state there were no blacks at all. The total absence of African Americans in some communities was attributed to vestiges of the so-called ‘Sundown Laws.'” (p. 116)
Speedway had 68 blacks in 1970. According to a local resident, the Speedway city charter forbade blacks.
Beech Grove had 33 blacks among 13,383 in 1990. Of course, some of them might have been servants in this suburban area. 17 by 1970, in 13,468.