Home » Missouri » St. Genevieve

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

St. Genevieve


Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Boot Heel/SE
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
1930 2662 72
1950 3992 45
1960 4443 19
1970 4468 7
1990 4372 11
2000 4476 92

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


“In 1930 state troopers were twice called into the little town of Ste. Genevieve to prevent a triple lynching. The entire black population, with the exception of two families, left town after the threatened lynchings.”
[Lorenzo J. Greene, Gary Kremer, and Antonio Holland, Missouri’s Black Heritage (Columbia; U MO P, 1993), 153.]

From a conversation with a former resident:
In 1930 in Ste. Genevieve, three blacks from the Deep South (two men, one woman) apparently killed two white lime kiln workers.
St. G. was the oldest town in MO, founded 1750 by the French. It had blacks from its onset, as slaves, also free blacks, including interracial (with French, Spanish) and Catholic blacks. There were newer migrants after c.1918, a separate group.
Either the three blacks were trying to rob the whites or the murders followed a fist fight after the men made advances toward the black woman.
Whites ordered all blacks to leave. Three families did not. Two were sheltered by a Catholic priest. At one household of three brothers and a sister, the brother being a rural postal carrier, the white mob appeared and tried to force him out. The sheriff intervened and arrested the mob leaders, but they got off with fines. Then the U.S. intervened, because they were postal workers.
Soon whites invited some of the older-resident blacks to come back, and some of them came. But St. G., which had c.200 blacks in 1930, had just 16 in 1960.
Technically, Ste. Genevieve was not a %u201Csundown town,%u201D although my high school history teacher once told the class that in the early 1950s the town supposedly had a sign on its outskirts reading something to the effect, %u201CNigger, Don%u2019t Let the Sun Set On You Here.%u201D But I haven%u2019t been able to confirm this bit of local legend. In any event, Ste. Genevieve witnessed a race riot in October 1930 that resulted in an almost complete exodus of black residents from the town. Eventually, Ste. Genevieve civic leaders invited around seventy of those residents (described in the newspaper accounts as %u201Ccertain native property owning blacks%u201D) to return to their homes and, as far as can be determined, almost all of them did come back to town. But over the course of the next three decades, the African American population in Ste. Genevieve dwindled. By 1960, only sixteen black residents remained in the town. Recently, however, the black population of Ste. Genevieve County has experienced a comeback. According to the 2000 Census, the number of African Americans living in Ste. Genevieve County jumped from 45 in 1990 to 128 in 2000, and personal observation from my visits back to town, suggest that the city of Ste. Genevieve has a larger black population than when I was growing up there, but I don%u2019t have any exact figures on this.
…As I recall during the 1970s only one extended black family lived in the town. This is my recollection as a kid, and I haven’t check the official census data to verify this. Although Ste. Genevieve had a token black presense, my hunch is that in all other respects it may well have been a sundown town…
The extended family, which still resides in Ste. Genevieve, includes two of the sons of the church custodian who, according to legend, was protected by the local Catholic pastor during the 1930 race riot. As I recall, growing up in Ste. Genevieve in the 1970s, this was the only African American family living in the town, but I’m certain that if you looked at the 1970 and 1980 census, you would find more black residents living there than I remember.