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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
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Slightly Republican
Unions, Organized Labor?
Moderately Strong

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1900 24
1910 13,894 10
1920 18,293 15
1930 21,628 15
1950 24,899
1960 35,164
1970 46,426 31 13
2010 63575 2,307

Method of Exclusion

  • Threat of Violence
  • Zoning
  • Realtors
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • German Catholic
  • Irish

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


In 1900 Census 5 of the 24 Black Janesville residents were live-in servants.

In 1920 2 of the 15 Black Janesville residents were live-in servants.

In 1988, an article entitled, “Perceptions Die Hard, Blacks Say,” interviewed a black Janesville resident who said, “if you came to Janesville [as a black] you came early in the morning and you left before dark.” This person had black friends from nearby Beloit who would decline invitations to stay overnight. It was even rumored that there used to be a big sign between Janesville and Beloit that read, “No Niggers Allowed.” (Janesville Gazette 1988).

A Janesville Gazette article published in 1988 states that, “many claim that General Motors’ hiring practices up to 1970 helped keep Janesville a white city.” Even neighboring blacks in Beloit heard “rumors of sunset laws that chased blacks out of town before dark.” After some further investigation a cursory check of the historical records in the Rock County Courthouse, “restrictive covenants against minorities were found in the bylaws of city and county subdivisions as late as 1960.”
(March 15, 1988)

Johnny Lee, a past black Janesville resident, stated in a 1988 article that “you didn’t let the sun go down on you in Janesville if you were black.”

In a set of interviews provided at the University of Wisconsin historical interviews, William ‘Blue’ Jenkins talks about his investigation of union discrimination in Chevrolet plant at Janesville, “found Janesville had a “ring” made up of newspaper, church, business people and the city’s one Black resident; they worked to keep Blacks out of the city.”

A Madison resident said that when her identifiably “anti-war” colleagues drove through Janesville in 1968 to stop for lunch and were beaten up by a group of men who said repeatedly, “no niggers or hippies allowed; get out of town by sundown.” (November 2013).

Thomas Walterman, previous dean at UW-Rock County Center was interviewed in the Janesville Gazette in 2004 claiming that, “he remembers a standard welcome (by the supervisor) he received when he moved to Janesville in 1973, “You’ll like it here. We don’t have any minorities.” Walterman suspected that the racial makeup of Janesville was no accident.

A different dean from UW-Rock County Center, who was from Mississippi, told Ted Kinnaman (who worked on open/fair housing), “Now, you aren’t going to bring any (blacks) in here, are you?”Kinnaman also recalled at the 1967 Rock County Fair hearing “the Republican tent and Democrats in their tent bragging how they run some Milwaukee “niggers” out of town.”
(“Liberals Promoted City Integration” Janesville Gazette, 3-14-88 article).

In 1988 one of the three black families that lived in Janesville said that the main reason that they were not discriminated against was because of the reputation the[y] established. This statement suggests that it was difficult for blacks to gain respect or legitimacy in the earlier 20th Century.

“Janesville and Rock County were a Ku Klux Klan hotbed in the 1920s,” according to a long-time Janesville journalist.