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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.

Valparaiso

Indiana

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

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Surely
Was there an ordinance?
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Sign?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
We Have Data on How it Changed

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1860
1870
1880
1890 5088
1900 6280
1910 6087 1
1920 6518 0
1930 8079 3
1940 8736 4
1950 12028 2
1960
1970 20020
1980 22247 177
1990 24414
2000 27428 440 410 62 917
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

  • Violent Expulsion
  • Threat of Violence
  • Violence Towards Newcomers
  • Private Bad Behavior
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black

Comments

Was sundown town in 1920s; John Gehm, Bringing it Home (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1984), tells how it desegregated c. 1970.
David Mitchell%u2019s article, “A Struggled Balance of Hope and Fear,” in Valparaiso Times, 6/29/2003 includes remembrances from Barbara Frazier-Cotton that she “began sleeping with the lights and television on to dissuade would-be intruders. For nearly a year, she slept in her clothes to save time in case they needed to leave in a hurry.” “To help her, Valparaiso University students set up night patrols outside the house.” “The phone rang often in the middle of the night. ‘Go home,’ the voice on the other end would say. ‘You don’t belong here.'” “Many Valparaiso University students befriended the family. Others in the city also accepted Frazier Cotton into the community.” She earned her BA from Valparaiso. All of her surviving children are successful. Her stepson was killed, ten years after she arrived, an unsolved murder from a vehicle, and the family moved back to Chicago.
The KKK tried to buy Valparaiso U. in the 1920s. Valparaiso U. was in financial trouble. During a huge KKK rally in Kokomo, 7/4/1923, the KKK bought the college, but never came up with the money. Atlanta didn’t want to pay for Stephenson’s project, apparently. So in 1925 Lutherans bought it. Valparaiso University purchase failed either because of some clause in the original charter that prevented it, or because Evans refused to commit funds to Stephenson’s purchase.
The Pittsburgh Courier wrote on 9/15/1923: “K. K. K. Decides It Won’t Take Over Valparaiso U.” “Negotiations for purchase of Valparaiso University by the Ku Klux Klan have been dropped, because of technicalities in the charter and deeds of the university.”
See Lance Trusty, “All Talk and No ‘Kash,'” IN Magazine of History, 82 #1 (3/86), 19, 21; and Kathleen M. Blee, Women of the Klan (Berkeley: U CA P, 1991), 213.

An Indiana resident remembered that her mother attended Valparaiso University in Valparaiso IN. She’s always told hert that, in the late 1940s, two of her fellow classmates were required to carry a note from the Valparaiso mayor if they ventured off the campus after sunset. The note gave them permission to be in town. These classmates were African Americans.
One of the first two blacks to attend Valparaiso disputed having to use a pass, but stated:
“Initially, we were scheduled to register in September, 1946. Our minister at the time, the late Rev. Joseph G. Lavalais, received a call from the president, the late Dr. O. P. Kretzmann, to inquire if Barbara and I were black. In response to Dr. Lavalais’s reply, Dr. Kretzmann advised that we would have to postpone our date of registration…. We did not register for classes until February, 1947. The reason for the delay is included in the following explanation: A section of the Valparaiso City Charter stated that ‘No blacks were allowed to sleep in Valparaiso overnight.’ Therefore, there would have to be a meeting of the city council to change that ruling.”
In the twentieth century Valparaiso and Morgantown, Indiana, were sundown towns complete with billboards; John Gehm wrote a graphic account of how Valparaiso finally desegregated around 1970. See John Gehm, Bringing it Home (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1984).
Valparaiso and Porter County had no blacks in the 1960s. Porter County gave Wallace 60% of its vote in 1964. Anstice Travers, black woman, moved to Valparaiso in about 1969. Others then followed. A family member was shot, and KKK crosses were burned.
Valparaiso had had a billboard, put up by the Klan at the city limits, “”NIGGERS OUT BY SUNDOWN” back in the twenties that had stood for some years.” (Gehm p. 94) “On more than one occasion, officials from V U had had to come down to the jail to pick up a Negro student who had wandered downtown after dark. Even as late as 1960, a representative from the school felt it necessary to contact all of the downtown merchants %u2014 and the police %u2014 to let them know that the university was going to be hosting some exchange students from Nigeria.” (p. 96)
“Between 1915 and 1944 the Ku Klux Klan had a greater memberhsip in Indiana than in any other state in the country.” “A Fourth of July rally of the Indiana Klan in 1920 drew over 100,000.” Nearly half a million statewide. (Gehm p. 96)