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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.



Basic Information

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

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Was there an ordinance?
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

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


County analysis:
TN had no county in 1890 with fewer than ten blacks. By 1930 it had two: Pickett, small total pop., 12 in 1890, 2 in 1930; 1950, 1; 1960, 6
Union, 103 in 1890, 3 in 1930; 1950, 1; 1960, 2

Sequatchie, which had 175 blacks in 1870, 70 in 1890, 11 in 1930; 1950, 3; 1960, 0

Scott, which had 366 in 1890, was down to 15; 1950, 6; 1960, 3

Fentress, which had 170 in 1870, was down to 53, of whom 53 were males, hence I believe it to be a correctional facility or other institution and that Fentress County had zero blacks as bona fide residents in 1930; 1950, 2; 1960, 2.

Cumberland, 1870, 98; 1880, 42; 1890, 51; 1900, 572 (incl. 465 males, 107 females); 1910, 63; 1930, 70 (45 males, 25 females); 1950, 7; 1960, 0.

Unicoi County, 219 in 1890, 13 in 1930; 1950, 11; 1960, 5

Hancock County, 727 in 1890, 162 in 1930; 1950, 110; 1960, 99; not sundown.

Grundy, 1870, 137; 1880, 438; 1890, 438; 1900, 315, balanced genders; 1910, 143; 1930, 155 (89 males); 1950, 43; 1960, 15.

Polk fell from 75 (1950) to 28 (1960).
Jackson fell from 103 (1950) to 34 (1960).

One resident asserts that a black mule put in a visible spot at the entry to an unfriendly town means, roughly, “get your black hide out of town before sunset. Or else.”

Several other sundown towns and counties exist in East Tennessee. Middle Tennessee also had a scattering of sundown towns, including Waynesboro for some time. But West Tennessee is more Deep South and has no sundown towns to my knowledge.

“Shortly after the bloody race riot in Springfield, Illinois, in August 1908, racial violence flared openly in the TN coal fields along the KY border. White mountaineers lacked the paternalism found in the region’s urban centers and often insisted that no blacks even be allowed into their communities. When mining companies imported black laborers, tensions mounted. In late July 1908, mine operators in the Jellico-La Follette area attempted to integrate their work gangs. White miners ordered the blacks to leave, using violence and threats of violence to enforce their demands. Most black miners fled, but on Auagust 17, 1908, ‘a band of some 70 Negro miners collected at Antras [where they] were given arms by the white authorities with which to protect themselves…’ After considerable shooting, sheriff’s authorities dispelled the white attackers.”
“The general trend after 1908 was to replace black laborers with whites.” Black miners were 15.7% of all coal miners, 1890, 28.4%, 1900, but then just 14.5% in 1910, 7.5% in 1920, and 6.6% in 1930.
In the cities, “A prospective black homeowner found it almost impossible to obtain a loan for a purchase outside the zones approved by white society.” Whites encroached upon black barbering after 1900, and firemen (firefighters). “The strongest Southern unions were those connected with the railroads, and these unions were staunchly anati-Negro and racially exclusive in their demands. Their antagonism undeniably eliminated Negro jobs in TN.” Around 1906-1911, unions forced blacks out of many fireman and engineman jobs on the railrroad. In 1920-21, whites killed several black trainmen. Whites were paying $300 for each black killed! Between 1920 and 1929, the number of different occupations held by blacks in Nashville dropped by almost 50%.
[Lester C. Lamon, Black Tennesseans, 1900-1930 (Knoxville: U Tenn Press, 1977), 134-165.]

The “Black Patch” was/is part of KY and TN that grows dark-leaved tobacco. It is the W part of KY, from Simpson County to the MS, and the NW part of TN, from Smith and Wilson counties to Obion but only down to Carroll.
“Early in the Black Patch war, David Amoss organized communities in disciplined attacks on property. But after the raid on Hopkinsville Amoss lost the community consensus he once enjoyed and Night Rider violence became bloodier and more racial %u2014 modern…. Masked men began to assault blacks and whites they saw as immoral, targets unconnected with the tobacco industry…. Amoss had viewed black labor as a resource to be guarded and steered his followers toward appropriate targets. But not everyone in tthe Black Patch viewed blacks as Amoss did.”
“Some whites met blacks as econ. competitors. White workers prospered when blacks were scarce; white employers were happiest when the black labor pool was large, driving down the price of labor.” “While [Amoss] was in TN, the planter elite lost cdontrol of the vigilantes they unleashed. In Trigg County ….” In the area Between the Rivers, pig-iron furnaces operated and employed blacks in the furnaces, whites elsewhere. Workers rented shacks, got paid in scrip redeemable only at the company store.
“Champion’s Night Riders began to threaten Eddyville blacks in anonymous notes. But the notes stirred the enmity of the elderly county judge, William L. Crumbaugh.” “When Champion’s Night Riders threatened Lyon County blacks, Crumbaugh naturally came to their defense.” But he could not get whites to join him. So whites attacked blacks in Eddyville. Whipped 10 people, 6 of them black. Killed one black. Told all blacks to leave town.
[Check census for Eddyville and Birmingham!]
“Eddyville Night Riders also brutalized black residents of Birmingham, KY. Visiting the homes of black families, the attackers roused them out of bed and cruelly whipped them. In an exchange of shots, the raiders murdered two people, one of whom was a two-year-old child. In August [1908?] a mob lynched four blacks in Russellville…. They took advantage of the toleration of lawlessness Amoss’s men had engineered to launch an orgy of racial hatred. In birmingham they succeeded in driving blacks out of the area. Blacks fled in such haste they abandoned their belongings. One riverboat alone took 17 black families out of KY after the Birmingham raid, unloading over 100 blacks in TN.”
[Christopher Waldrep, Night Riders (Durham: Duke UP, 1993), 140-151.]

You may not know that I worked at the Knoxville Urban League for a decade, so I spent a lot of time traveling into black communities in the Tennessee Valley. While at the League, I was funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority to do research about 23 small towns in their region (which included towns in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia). TVA was convinced that the census takers were missing blacks who lived in their target communities and wanted the League to try to locate those small communities and to identify local contacts they could use to try to recruit blacks for their positions at outlying facilities. During that research, I did uncover some of the kind of information you asked about.
In several of those small towns, the small black communities lay “across the railroad tracks” right outside the town limits. This design was a purposeful means of social and legal control, according to old timers in those small black communities. In Sevierville, Tennessee, the black community was called “Frog Alley,” a term that had existed since emancipation. A community like this called Scarboro existed in Anderson County, Tennessee. Most of the officials in these small towns denied to me as an outside researcher and to census takers that there were any blacks in their areas, but I still found them with little difficulty. After a while, I could predict geographically where to find them.
This research was conducted in the mid 1970s, so much has changed in all these counties since then, including the town incorporation of most of the small black communities. In addition to small pockets of blacks near towns, I also located numerous rural pockets of blacks who had lived in those areas since emancipation effected the liberation of slaves from nearby small plantations.