Home » Ohio » Parma

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
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?
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
1940 16365 2
1950 28897
1960 82845 132
1970 100,216 50
1980 92548 312
1990 87876 639
2000 85655 905

Method of Exclusion

  • Realtors

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • German Protestant
  • German Catholic
  • Irish
  • Eastern European
  • Italian
  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


One Ohion claims, “It is really hard to tell these days. I would agree with Parma and Parma Heights. I would also look into some of the ‘newer’ suburbs
in Portage and Summit counties. I have been told by my students of a couple of incidents where African Americans and other minorities have been ‘steered’
away from buying homes by realtors. It is really hard to get a handle on it because it is so informal.
It is more of an attitude than anything else. There have been some overt examples of racism in the suburbs but nothing really formal. You just ‘feel’

Parma is said to have National Alliance (neo-Nazi) presence today.

1960, 82,845 total; 23 women, 109 black men
1970, 50 African Americans, out of whom 17 were inmates of an institution, such as Parmadale.
*Parmadale was an orphanage and black children lived there, had to fight in Parma HS, where they were the only African Americans.

“Parma, OH, … a suburb of 100,000 people just a few miles SE of Cleveland, had no low-income projects in 1981, largely because of a local law
requiring approval by referendum of any proposed subsidized housing.”
[Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (NY: Oxford UP, 1985), 225.]

Testimony of a black college student from the Cleveland area: “My mom worked in Parma, and they never encouraged her to stay late to get overtime. It was always, ‘Why don’t you come in
early…'” They didn’t want her in Parma after dark.

“Following efforts of a developer to build a high-rise section 236 project in Parma … voters in November 1971 overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal requiring public approval for all
subsidized housing projects.” Other Cleveland suburbs followed suit. “Racial fears were prominent
in the controversy … in Parma, which in 1970 had 50 black residents out of a population of 100,216.
During consideration of the 236 proposal, one official announced that he did ‘not want Negroes in the City of Parma.'”
[Michael N. Danielson, The Politics of Exclusion (NY: Columbia UP, 1976), 100-01.]

Another resident claims, “In response to your search for ‘sundown towns’ try looking into Parma, Ohio, near Cleveland. As late as 1991, the Parma
police were still stopping blacks and asking what their business was in Parma (it happened to my husband who is African-American). Parma is a
predominately Italian community.”

ANYMALL, U.S.A. Life, Aug97, Vol. 20 Issue 8, p36, 9p
Not too big, not too fancy, the shopping mall in Parma, Ohio, is the center of civic life. It’s the
city’s Main Street, a climate-controlled barometer of social stress. For decades, nothing at Parmatown
mall seemed to change. Now the old order has been turned inside out.
…. It was only in the ’80s that Parma began to evolve. ‘New people started coming in, a different
element. Now they’ve got public housing up on Chevy Boulevard.’ Marusak observes these shifts without obvious rancor. ‘The only thing I regret, you
can’t leave the keys in your car anymore,’ he says.
Parma is a city of 88,000, eighth largest in Ohio, and the vast majority are blue-collar Caucasians. They first moved out from Cleveland in
the postwar boom years and then again in the ’60s, when Parma became a bolt-hole for white flight.
Its population was largely ethnic–Italian,
Irish, German and, above all, Slavic–and it flourished. The men found jobs at the GM plant,
the women at Community General Hospital. They were a hardworking, God-fearing breed who lived
in tract houses and bred large families, fiercely proud of themselves, their country and their town.
‘Parma in the ’50s and ’60s was a classic American crossroads, but with an Eastern European flavor,’
says Mark Stueve, a Cleveland bookseller who worked at Parmatown during those years. ‘It was
‘Little Boxes,’ the old Pete Seeger song, come to life.’
Parmatown itself began in 1955 as a strip shopping center, then quickly expanded. ‘The
parking lot looked out on open fields,’ says Stueve.
‘Meadows and woods, that’s all there was–pure American pastoral.’
Slow-moving and parochial, the city made an easy target for satire….
Parma did not become an all-white enclave by accident. In the 1950s, when it was among the
fastest-growing cities in the nation, tripling its population within 10 years, there was de facto
segregation. In 1973 the Justice Department sued the city over this, and seven years later a U.S.
district court judge ordered it to clean house. But it was only last November that the city fully complied
by setting up a fair-housing program with $1 million for renovation loans and mortgage incentives and, for the first time, giving preference to blacks.
Until the early ’90s, according to a longtime
employee at Dillard’s in the mall, security was often notified whenever an African American entered the
store. The interloper was then kept under close surveillance, his every move monitored. These
days, though, the attention is less overt. Most black shoppers mingle without fuss, as do Asians
and Hispanics. It’s only if they’re teenagers and they come in a crowd that alarm bells go off.
…. Nevertheless, Parma is diversifying.
Dillard’s employs black salesmen, and there is a black officer on the Parma police force. There is
also a Muslim mosque, a Hindu temple and a
Philippine cultural center.”
[ANYMALL, U.S.A. Life, Aug97, Vol. 20 Issue 8,
p36, 9p. By NIK COHN]

“The city of Parma, Ohio, for example, was found guilty in 1980 by a federal court of purposefully
and illegally excluding blacks from its community.”
[John M. Goering, “Introduction,” in John M. Goering, ed., Housing Desegregation and Federal
Policy (Chapel Hill: U NC P, 1986), 10.]

“In 1973, the US Justice Dept. sued Parma, alleging
that the city had violated the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act.” In 1968, the city council had defeated
a fair housing resolution. It also rejected a subsidized housing project.
City Council President Kenneth Kuczma stated “he did not want Negroes in the city of Parma.”
Partly owing to testimony by Prof. John Kain of
Harvard, Parma was found guilty. Judge required Parma to enact a fair housinsg resolution, establishe a fair housing committee, work toward
low-income housing, develop public housing, etc.,
and appointed a master to oversee implementation.
In 1983, Parma finally did enact a fair housing
resolution and an ordinance in 1988. Beginning
1988, advertised Parma “as an open community.”
In 1987, op0ened its first public housing project.
As of 11/1991, 81 of 178 residents were black.
“In 1989 there was only one black in the city’s
full-time municipal work force of approx. 500.”
Residency requirement, though it now allows new hires 18 months to relocate.