Home » Indiana » Rockport

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
Don’t Know
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
1990 2315 19
2000 2160 56 7 8

Method of Exclusion

  • Threat of Violence
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


The Indianapolis Freeman reported on 11/22/1900 that Rockport had a triple lynching of blacks, November, 1900. Rockport did go sundown but it had lots of blacks, 1901.
“Anti-Negro Crusade,” in the Chattanooga Daily Times, 1/29/1901 reported:
“Cities and towns along the Ohio river have begun a crusade against the Negroes. The entire trouble dates back to the lynching of the Negroes at Rockport and Boonville for the murder of the white barber, Simmons, at Rockport one night late last month. The board of safety of this city has ordered the police to arrest all strange Negroes and bring them before the city police judge. If they can not give reason for being here they will be sentenced to the rock pile. The object of this order is to rid the town of an obnoxious class of Negroes. It is estimated that there are 2,000 colored men inthis city who absolutely refuse to work. The[y] spend their time in the colored saloons and low dives of the city and live the best way they can. On election day they are in the market and the man who bids the highest is the man who lands them.”
Because most of these towns were smaller than 2,500 people, research in the manuscript census would be required to determine whether their black populations plummeted between 1900 and 1910. Local newspapers might also reveal more about the actions whites took in each town as well as neighboring communities and might explain how the murder of one barber prompted three lynchings in Rockport and one in Boonville, some twenty miles away.
Black population declined, 1900-1910, in New Albany, Jeffersonville, Madison, Rockport, and Lawrenceburg, on the Ohio River.

In the 2000 edition of her work, Indiana Blacks in the Twentieth Century, Emma Lou Thornbrough writes:
“Hopes of better economic opportunities, better schools, and the amenities of town life were the usual reasons for migrating, but white hostility was also sometimes a factor. For example, by 1900 Leavenworth, the county seat of Crawford County, had the reputation of being the most ‘anti-Negro’ town on the OH R. Captains of riverboats were said to discipline black crewmen by threatening to put them off the boat at Leavenworth. By 1900 there was only one Negro resident in Crawford County. A little farther north in Washington County, where there had been a few blacks from very early times, a county history boasted that by 1900 there were no blacks. It appears that black farmers had been forced by their white neighbors to sell their land and move out of the county.” “Although there were no statutory laws forbidding black settlement, in numerous small towns throughout the state there was a tradition of ‘sunset’ or ‘sundown laws,’ enforced not only by public opinion but also by sheriffs and other local officers, that decreed blacks could not settle in the town or stay overnight.” (p. 2-3)
Washington County had 36 blacks in 2000, incl. 12 households.
Madison, however, remained interracial, acc. to white person, Indianapolis, 10/2004.
In the 1957 edition of her work, Emma Lou Thornbrough%u2019s The Negro in Indiana, she writes:
“In no part of the state was race hatred more virulent in the postwar period than in Washington County, where during the pioneer period a number of Negroes had come with Quakers from NC. The non-Quaker elements became increasingly intolerant… The result was a campaign of intimidation, of which one of the most tragic victims was John Williams, a pioneer who had acquired a farm and an unusual amount of wealth for a Negro. In December, 1864, he was shot to death in his own dooryard. In 1867 there was another murder, the victim being an inoffensive old man who had aroused the ire of some of his white neighbors by persisting in attending their church, even after he had been warned to stay away. There were other acts of intimidation which led to an exodus of nearly all of the colored residents. Between 1860 and 1870 the number in the county declined from 187 to 18. By 1880 there were only three, and the county had become proscribed territory for Negroes, who were not allowed to come in even as servants, a fact which occasioned surprise among visitors from the South… A county history published in 1916 asserted, ‘Washington County has for several decades boasted that no colored man or woman lived within her borders.'” “When a horsebreeder from KY, who had bought a farm on Blue River, brought a colored boy to care for his horses [in 1888], there was so much excitement that the boy was sent away. A visitor from Louisville who brought a colored cook [in 1893] was compelled to send her away because of threats of violence.” (p. 225)