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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.

Royal Oak


Basic Information

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

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
1960 80,612 24
1990 65,410 64,035 332 137
2000 60,062 56,941 927 435

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


email 3/2008

I grew up in Royal Oak 1941-67. I heard two stories — The first story is there was a law which stated any Negroes on the streets after sundown would be arrested.

The second story, in the 1950s there was one black family on 13 Mile Road who were not allowed to go to Royal Oak Schools, but their tuition was paid to a neighboring community.

20 of Royal Oak’s 24 blacks in 1960 were female, indicating that this population consists mostly or entirely of live-in domestic workers.

A prominent leader in the Macomb County, Michigan chapter of the NAACP shared with us that in the early 1950’s, there was a 5:00 p.m. curfew for African Americans to leave town. At the time, her father worked for a construction company and an incident occurred where he was stuck and buried in a cave-in while working in Royal Oak. His co-workers were aware of the curfew and informed one another “you know he has to be outta town by 5:00 p.m.” The man’s daughter expressed that the co-workers were “more concerned with getting him out of town by 5:00 than helping him out of a dangerous cave.” As a result, the man never returned to that particular workplace.

A Michigan native emailed us:”People of all races come to various events in Royal Oak, dine there, and go to the many bars and nightclubs there. As a black person, I feel little to no danger of racism when in Royal Oak, even late at night. As Southfield has become more African-American, the suburbs that touch it have become more accustomed to dealing with other races.”

Email from former resident:
“Royal Oak became a young punker hangout in the 1980’s. But in the 1990’s it attracted a transient, alternative/ goth scene of 20-30 year olds,(Generation Xers), all coming from diverse places. There was some diversity. Long-time residents were mainly blue-collar/ white.”