Home » Kansas » Nickerson

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?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
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 1013 0
1930 1052 0
1940 1052 0
1960 1091 1
1970 1187 0
1990 1137 2
2000 1194 8

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


One witness’s grandfather may have put up sundown signs in the town. Another witness thought he had heard of a sundown ordinance in the town.

365 students in Nickerson HS. “About a third are from Hutchinson, another third are from suburban South Hutchinson. But the small-town spirit of Nickerson prevails.” Adult chaperon says, “‘I’ve always wanted to come here, but a year ago, I was thinking, “Who knows if I’ll ever get there? I don’t know anyone there.” This place is so foreign.'”
All-white (of course) HS student group visits DC. Every single student “is sympathetic to the Republican Party.
One student “had a CD he’d made back in Kansas, and every once in a while he’d crack it out and gleefully let his friends know he was playing it again. The CD was flagrantly racist. One track, performed by aging country singer David Allan Coe, was sung to the tune of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ It went, ‘Leroy the big-lipped nigger, also had a pushed-in noes. If he ever took his boots off, you would see elevent toes.’ Track 5, also by Coe, went, ‘Now I like sugar and I like tea, but I don’t like niggers, no sirree.’ The N-word carried extra sting because in November 1999 Nickerson High made national news when a students wrote “NNAN” on the walls in three boys’ bathrooms one Friday. The letters were short for ‘No Niggers at Nickerson,’ according to the town’s police chief, Tom Burns, who never caught the culprit. There were only two black students at the school then, but each ‘NNAN’ was copled with a scrawled threat such as ‘Gonna rock this school no survivors’ and ‘It’s going to happen Monday.’ Forty percent of the student body stayed home the following Monday, and, although there was never any violence, one of the black students transferred out of the school immediately. There was one black person at Nickerson High this spring, a student teacher named Curtis Carter. He told me, ‘People here are kind of uncomfortable around me, but I feel welcomed.’
The students at Nickerson High are way into rap …. [So they aren’t all simplistic racists.] When we were riding the Metro one day, in a crowd that was largely African American, [Teacher Gary McCown] looked over at Jake, smiling defiantly, and shouted across the car: ‘Jake, why don’t you play track 5 now?’ Jake blanched and looked down and said nothing.”
Students did not go to Club Insomnia, where some HS students from other towns were going. “‘The line’s halfway around the block,’ [one student] said, ‘and then we’d pay $15 to go in and get the crap beaten out of us.'”
“There were a few Nickerson kids who yearned for a broader existence. For instance, Erika Kosterhoff, who had the highest GPA on the trip, would be enrolling at the University of Kansas and hoped to do some traveling. ‘I’d like to go to Hollywood and see the stars’ houses,’ she said. ‘I think I would enjoy going to South America. It would be real cool to see a different way of life.’ For many students, though, the Washington trip would be … a first and last hurrah. With sad resignation, [Teacher Gary] McCown told me that he didn’t expect worldly ambitions from students in Nickerson. ‘They look at what their parents do and what’s offered around Nickerson %u2014 mostly service jobs %u2014 and they think, ‘It’s not a bad life. It’s pleasant. You can walk into the grocery store and be greeted by people you know.'”
[Bill Donahue, “Wrestling With Democracy,” Washington Post Magazine, 7/1/2002, 27-28]