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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.


New York

Basic Information

Type of Place
CDP, Unincorporated Borough, or MCD
Metro Area
Long Island
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?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
2000 15854 1263 12528 77 73

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


From Andrew O’Hehir, “Soul of the suburbs,” Salon.com, 4/13/2000, http://archive.salon.com/books/feature/2000/04/13/suburbs, 7/03:
“Roosevelt was “blockbusted” in the mid 1960s by real estate speculators who bought houses cheap from terrified whites and resold them at a premium to blacks who were not welcome in most suburbs. Ironically, the result of this fear mongering and profiteering was a stable community, one of the first middle class black enclaves in suburban America. When the same tactics were used in nearby Freeport, blacks and whites eventually joined forces to resist blockbusting and white flight. Some of Freeport’s methods have been controversial the village government has been accused of allowing whites to buy houses at artificially low prices to maintain racial balance but the result has been one of the few truly integrated suburbs anywhere in the country.”

From Michael Powell, “Separate and Unequal in Roosevelt, Long Island,” Washington Post, 4/21/02:

“99.7% of the children of Roosevelt are black or Latino. They attend decrepit schools and read tattered textbooks. 20% of their teachers quit each year, and by middle school the students perform terribly on statewide tests %u2014 9 out of 10 eighth-graders read below grade level.
“To support these failing schools, homeowners here pay the highest property tax rates on Long Island, as their 1½ square-mile town has no commercial tax base to speak of. Far wealthier and far whiter towns border Roosevelt to the north and east.”
NY State passed a bill, 4/02, to take over the school system, “the first such action in NY history.” “The plan would toss out the town’s elected school board for seven years and give the schools an operating subsidy this year of about $6 million, on top of its $39 million budget.
“But few predict with any confidence that these steps alone will solve Roosevelt’s problems.
“For Roosevelt has inherited the worst wages of Long Island’s racial history. As measured by school and housing patterns, LI has the most racially isolated and segregated suburbs in the nation. The black population of LI has risen steadily in the past 20 years to 232,000, or about 10% of the total population. But about 2/3 of LI’s cities, towns, and villages remain less than 1% black, and half of those have no black residents.
“90% of the island’s black residents live in 20% of its towns.”
“This is not a question of a county with a black majority … but of segregation within counties.”
“Today almost all black residents are bunched into a dozen or so towns, from Roosevelt to Hempstead, Wyandanch, and Uniondale.” “Wyandanch … has 1901 students, 12 of whom are white.”
“That segregation, taken together with a deeply inequitable property tax system and social policies that have ghettoized low-income families in Roosevelt, has given birth to one of the state’s poorest-performing school districts.”
White flight from Roosevelt, 1970s. “Real estate agents funneled middle-class blacks into Roosevelt, a process that continues to this day. [S. Maxwell] Hines, a professor of education at Hofstra Univ., recalled looking for a house in this area six years ago: She’d call agents and they would coo, ‘Oh, you’re a college professor, your credit is great.’
“Then they’d meet her and see that she was black.
“‘They would look at me and say: “Oh. Oh, we need to find a place where you’ll feel comfortable,” ‘ Hines recalls. ‘So they took me to Roosevelt.'”
“During the 1970s, Nassau County social service agencies began steering families receiving welfare and housing subsidies toward Roosevelt.”
“The massive and successful Roosevelt Fields shopping malls were built five miles to the north, with the help of county subsidies and zoning regulations. From the point of view of Roosevelt, however, the malls might as well have been in Des Moines, because tax revenue is not shared across town lines. As Roosevelt Fields thrived, stores died in Roosevelt itself.” “And as tax money dried up, the schools withered.”
“The idea of disbanding the schools and sending the students to neighboring white districts, first proposed last fall by the state education commissioner, Richard Mills, stirred up a whirlwind of opposition. Superintendent Thomas Caramore, of the 98%-white Bellmore-Merrick Central HS District next door, wrote a letter to Newsday saying that his district lacked classroom space and could not hope to solve the ‘complex societal challenges’ that have existed in Roosevelt for 25 years. ‘No one bothered to ask,’ he wrote, ‘if either district is a willing partner to this “solution.”‘”

The African American Media Network / Home of the African American News
& The Roosevelt Media Center RooseveltLongIsland.org http://www.rooseveltlongisland.org
Professor of History, Nassau Community College

Gives an historical overview, and makes statements about the current social and political challenges facing Roosevelt.


Historical Dimension
Roosevelt’s Name
Black in Long Island
Legacies of Servitude
The Advent of the Black American To Roosevelt, Long Island.
No one knows exactly when the Black American entered Roosevelt. Discrepancies exist primarily because no official records were kept by the County or the Census Bureau prior to 1960, treating Roosevelt as a separate community. The figures and population trends which are recorded account only for Nassau County as a whole. They are not broken down in terms of villages, towns or ethnic groups.
The Klu Klux Klan
The Integration of Roosevelt 1945 1960
The Black Middle Class
The Schools
The Princeton Plan
The Press
The Severely Poverty Stricken
Effects on the School System
The Fight for Survival
Nassau Road Business District
Domino Effect
A Ghetto On Nassau Road
The Non Ghetto Areas in Roosevelt
New Shopping Plaza for Nassau Road
Widening of Nassau Road
New Supermarket
Tax Relief
The Roosevelt Home Improvement Program
School Aid
Roosevelt Library

Roosevelt is a classic example of a community in a “color class conflict,” brought on by the American racist society in which all minorities of color live. The Blacks in Roosevelt reflect the aspirations and frustrations of all Afro Americans. Color, not class, was the primary factor of opposition in the color transformation of the Roosevelt community. Whites rejected not only the severely poverty stricken Blacks, but Blacks of middle and upper income status as well. All were treated as “racial castes” segregated to themselves, housing districts away from the white residents of the community. The situation became intensified when welfare recipients began entering the community. This drastic shift in the economic status of the community created a massive exodus of “frantic white flight,” spurned on by the alarmist tactics of greedy Real Estate Brokers who exploited the racist fears of the white residents for their own financial gain. While many forces are essential to correct this problem in race relations, certain strategies must be developed which speak directly to it. The Black leadership in the Black community must begin to assume the basic role of confronting those forces, which would prevent black middle and higher income groups from entering previously all white higher communities.
They must seek to initiate pressure against the political forces that be, and as one renowned political official, Mr. Herman Washington has said, “They must enforce the Anti Discrimination Laws, Housing and local Zoning Laws and legislation which will protect the rights of all the residents in the community.”
In brief, the economic and social conditions in Roosevelt are not only separating Blacks but threatening the “security” of the whites in and around the community as well. It is not an overstatement to suggest that the rebirth of direct social action be it riots, marches “long hot summers” or otherwise, could be probable and even justifiable if the economic conditions in Roosevelt are permitted to continue as is. History now challenges both whites and blacks in Roosevelt to learn from the past and move to transform their community for the betterment of all its residents as a sign in the process of transforming America.”