Home » Michigan » Howell

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
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?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1900 2,518 2,477 41
1930 3,615 17
1940 3748 13
1950 4353 23
1960 4861 17
1970 5224 10
1980 6976 4
1990 8,184 12 84 81
2000 9,232 29 56 114
2010 9489 40 68 109

Method of Exclusion

  • Threat of Violence
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


“Word of mouth from Black and White friends alike is that if you are Black, you should never be caught in
Brighton (halfway between Detroit and East Lansing) or Howell (closer to Lansing) after dark.”
-posted to the web, 2002

In 1989, a cross was burned on a black family’s lawn in Howell. The town is reportedly a KKK center.

An resident of Redford, Michigan emailed us: “Howell is half-way between Detroit and Lansing, and in the limited number of stops I’ve personally made there, Howell makes Livonia feel like Africa! The gas station attendants and fast food workers were all extremely rude and felt uncomfortable by my presence and made it known. Most African-Americans I know who make the trip from Detroit to Lansing plan to not stop in between if at all possible.”

According to a long-term resident of Howell, “I can attest with no uncertainty to how racist it truly is. There are very few people of color in general in this area and while the racism is often targeted at blacks it is also often extended to Arabs, Asians, Hispanics and pretty much any other non-whites. The police often harass blacks simply based on race and the jail population holds a much higher percentage of blacks than is reflected in the community.”

A Michigan resident shared her experience in Howell in 2002: “I’m sure Howell, MI is a Sundown town. In 2002 I was traveling in my vehicle returning from a business trip in a separate car with [colleague]. He suggested we stop on our way home somewhere between where we both lived for a drink and a few appetizers … We stopped at a little Irish pub just off the main road in Howell, off the 696 freeway. It was about 2PM, there [were] only 4 people there at the time. [My colleague] kept asking the waitress to take our order – she kept saying she would. [By] 3:30 PM my work mate really started to ask the waitress what the problem was and express[ed] that we were there before the people she was helping. A very old wrinkled, racist man in the corner said, “The problem is, Sir, ‘We don’t serve her kind here.'”

And even though Howell has allowed minorities to settle in recent decades, this case proves that it is still dangerous for them in the 21st century (link forwarded by Lansing native): http://www.policeone.com/news/47812-Retrial-for-White-Men-Accused-of-Beating-Black-State-Trooper/.

Another testimony corroborates the current potential dangers minorities have to face in Howell: “One of my classmates at Michigan State University lives in Brighton which is very close to Howell and frequents some of the businesses there. She told me that it is general knowledge of the residents of the area that the KKK still has an active presence in Howell and some of the surrounding areas (unspecified). Members of the group identify by painting their car hoods white. At first I did not believe her, but the very next time that I drove through the Howell area on I-96 on my commute to MSU, I saw an older, dark blue car pulled over on the side of the road. Its hood was unmistakably painted white. The car’s owner was not in site, but in my mind, it was more than a coincidence.”

A link to a news story about a racist reaction to a basketball game: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2014/03/members_of_howell_high_school.html

An email from Feb, 2015: “My friends (who are black) and I chose to attend a festival downtown. During our walk to the festivities (less than a quarter mile) we were shouted at by two vehicles who slowed down to intimidate us. They each shouted racial profanities, loud enough to draw the attention of surrounding people. No one was phased about it, except us.”

4/2013 email: “Howell and Brighton are known centers of KKK activity. It is understood by all residents of Michigan that entering those city limits after dark is extremely dangerous to an person of color and particularly dangerous to black folks. I went to high school with several people from Howell, all of whom confessed to either being members of the KKK or knowing people who were. While it may not have officially been a sundown town, it most certainly never needed the label because of it’s reputation as a KKK epicenter.”

After Howell High School won basketball game in March 2014, Some Howell students made several racist tweets. Some also faced disciplinary action: http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2014/03/members_of_howell_high_school.html