Home » Illinois » Oak Park

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Oak Park

Illinois

Basic Information

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

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Probable
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
Sign?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
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
1860
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

Comments

Oak Park began as an all-white suburb of Chicago, with its third Black family moving in the mid-1960s.

A minister and long-time resident of Villa Park recalled, “In those days blacks didn’t dare cross Austin Avenue to live in Oak Park.”

According to en.wikipedia.org/Percy_Julian:
Percy Julian was a well-respected chemist owning more than 130 chemical patents, eventually inventing “The Birth Control Pill.” Certainly he synthesized cortisone, a key medical breakthrough.
“Around 1950 Julian moved his family from Chicago to the suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, where the Julians were the first colored family. Although some residents welcomed them into the community, there was also widespread antipathy towards them. Their home was fire-bombed on Thanksgiving Day, 1950, before they moved in. After the moved to Oak Park, the house was attacked with dynamite on June 12, 1951. The attacks galvanized the community and a community group was formed to support the Julians.

According to a resident of Illinois, “There is an earlier history of Blacks before and shortly after 1900 that through various actions forced movement to other suburbs (Maywood). The community was where the current downtown Oak Park business district is now. With the long gap, the perception of the Julian family being the first Black family took root (they were not the first family but the first in a new wave).”