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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.

North Tonawanda

New York

Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Strongly Republican
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
1860 114
1900 9,069 0
1960 34,757 3
2000 33262 32549 98 177 114 362

Method of Exclusion

  • Private Bad Behavior
  • Reputation
  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black
  • Unknown


Email from a former Resident:

“The sundown story I grew up hearing was that at sometime in the past a white NT woman was molested by a Black man. There was a big furor over this; as a result the NT City Council passed an ordinance requiring all Blacks to be out of town by the blowing of the eight o%u2019clock whistle at the city%u2019s water works”

“Tonawanda, the first stop outside of Buffalo, was like Ducktown, TN, in that it allowed no Negro to live there.” (from James A. Atkins, The Age of Jim Crow (NY: Vantage, 1964), 138.)

There was one black family in North Tonawanda when I was growing up [1960s?]. They were rich, light-skinned, and their daughter had a white boy friend. Another black family moved in. Teachers turned on their son, who wouldn’t take shit.
“The nicest word I learned was ‘colored.’ ‘Nigger’ was the typical term.” “I learned to hold my breath when blacks walked by because I was taught they smell bad.” “Whenever a neighbor would get pissed off at another neighbor, they’d yell, ‘I’m gonna sell my house to a god-damned nigger.'” I remember my [older relative] watching Martin Luther King and sneer, “Oh, you have a dream…” “George Wallace was so popular in my town. And this was a Democratic union town!”
People from Tonawanda ask me, “How do you live with all those niggers down there?” “I reply, ‘I like having sex with them.'”

Former North Tonawanda Resident:

“I grew up in North Tonawanda (between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, the terminus of the Erie Canal), and there were always rumors that Blacks were kept out of that town in the 19th century, but there was also a local story about “Black Hannah,” who supposedly lived in the woods near us.”