Home » Michigan » Owosso

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?
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
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
1870 2,065 13
1910 9,639 7
1930 14,496 0
1970 17,179 9
1980 16455 16
1990 16,322 23
2000 15,713 27
2010 15194 117 78 47

Method of Exclusion

  • Violent Expulsion
  • Threat of Violence
  • Private Bad Behavior

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


In October of 1871, white residents of Owosso expelled the black population. A black barber was allowed to stay.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not Owosso had a sign.

“In 1924, half the businessmen in Owosso belonged to the KKK.” A stranded black motorist from Flint called relatives and reported “‘The police have given me half an hour to get out of town.’…A black minister was guest speaker at our Congregational Church in about 1992, and some white kids driving by in a car yelled at him, as he was walking to the church, ‘Nigger go home,’ and that shocked people. People realized we can’t do that any more.”
-Owosso resident, 2002

“We had a class reunion of a 40’s class [1942], and he asked me [in 2002], ‘Are Negroes allowed to leave the bus station?'”
-interview with Owosso hotel clerk, 2002

“My friend got called a ‘dirty kike’ by an adult neighbor when the boy walked down the street in Owosso, Michigan circa 1948.”
-posted to the web, 1999

“Owosso has no Negroes, has never had any, and, according to many private opinions, does not want any.”
-“Quiet Town in Michigan Has ‘a Feeling for Wallace'”,
New York Times, 12 September 1968

“I grew up in Owosso, Michigan. It was once considered a HQ for the KKK and my mom told me when she was growing up that all blacks had to leave before sundown and I think the ‘tradition’ just
continued. We had a [black] woman living in our town [in the 1980s] and I remember walking downtown and
seeing her on the other side of the street. People would pull up and make comments to her out their windows.”
-posted to the web, 2005

I think there’s one [African American] family [in Owosso now], but I’m not sure… It hasn’t really changed yet. Sure, they let in one or two, if they
behave themselves. I doubt if there are any black kids in the schools.”
-Owosso resident, 2002

Owosso was twice home to the Grand Dragon of the Realm of Michigan.

According to a former schoolteacher who taught in Owosso in 2001: “When teaching To Kill A Mockingbird, most of the freshmen I had wrote in their journals about family members being racist. At one point a class discussion brought up some questions such as, “Is it true blacks have lice?” “My uncle says they can’t speak good because they have smaller brains.” “How come blacks go to church like regular Christians?” “My dad says they’re gonna make blacks come to this school.”

Email testimony from 7/2014 that speaks to its sundown past and comments on the living conditions today:
“I live in Owosso, my parents and many relatives & people I know attended the Bible College here (now Baker College). There was 1 black student, my folks said he was told in no uncertain terms not to be on the streets after dark. This was in the early 60’s. We do have more blacks now, and many other ethnic groups, including Asian, Hispanic, Indian. I have to agree there are many racists here unfortunately.”