Announcing Our Best Books of 2021

Sundown Towns: Background information when reading Calling Me Home

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Calling Me Home

by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler X
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Sundown Towns

This article relates to Calling Me Home

Print Review

Don't let the sun set on YOU.

	Jim NeubeckerThis is typical wording on a sign at the edge of what was called a "sundown town", which gained its name because these towns required people of color to leave their perimeters – not surprisingly – by sundown. These towns, found throughout the USA not just in the South, were explicitly all-white towns. Sometimes the segregation was created by actual town policy, sometimes through restrictive covenants created and maintained by real estate brokers, and sometimes by sheer intimidation from local town employees like police officers and even regular citizens. It is not clear how many of these towns existed but an estimate cites that at one point there were several thousand across the United States, and the state of Illinois had the most within its borders.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1968, sundown towns cannot officially exist. However, while the edge of town signs are no longer posted, it's difficult to know what sort of discrimination might be practised under the radar in some small towns.

	Sundown TownsAlthough these towns affected African Americans the most, other ethnic groups were sometimes targeted. Chinese Americans, for example, were targeted in Idaho in the late 19th century, and according to sociologist James Loewen, who wrote the book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, after an 1886 anti-Chinese convention in Boise, there were virtually no Chinese Americans living in Idaho. Loewen's book also describes a town in Nevada that would blow a whistle at 6 p.m, which meant that the Native Americans had to leave its perimeters, and there was a town in Connecticut that shut its doors to Jews at sundown.

Loewen is a sociologist who is passionate about his subject, so much so that his reliability is, perhaps, questionable. As a Washington Post review of his book observes, "…Loewen's almost evangelical passion for his material, raises questions of credibility – or at least of potential overstatement. But Loewen expertly dodges those accusations. He devotes almost an entire chapter to explaining his research – detailing his rationale for defining sundown towns, laying out his statistical methods and revealing how he triangulated oral history, written sources and census data to arrive at a 'confirmation.'" But as the review also states, Loewen's case is tough to repudiate: "…When he reports that he's personally verified the existence of roughly 1,000 sundown towns between 1890 and 1930, you believe him. And because he pairs that finding with an analysis of the history, causes and patterns of sundown towns that shows that they were, in many ways, as logical – and often as violent – an outgrowth of American racism as lynching, he ultimately makes a strong case that sundown towns were a significant feature of the American landscape. As is often the case when the subject is race, the relative lack of hard evidence ultimately becomes part of the story, rather than a hindrance to it."

There has been very little time and research devoted to sundown towns, other than what Loewen has offered. He is, without a doubt, the voice of the cause. And he feels that more investigation is necessary. What made one town become a sundown town, for example, and not another town just down the road? Answers to questions like that one could shed light on mob mentality and offer a new perspective on race relations as well.

More people investigating and more voices offering views on this piece of history would be welcome.


James Loewen wrote an interesting article titled Was Your Town a Sundown Town?

Glasses illustration by Jim Neubecker

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to Calling Me Home. It originally ran in February 2013 and has been updated for the January 2014 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    The Office of Historical Corrections
    by Danielle Evans
    In The Office of Historical Corrections, the second story collection from Danielle Evans, readers ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book of Mother
    The Book of Mother
    by Violaine Huisman
    Fictionalizing the life of author Violaine Huisman's own mother, this debut novel is split into ...
  • Book Jacket
    People from My Neighborhood
    by Hiromi Kawakami
    People from My Neighborhood is exactly what it sounds like — an unnamed narrator recounts a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Win Me Something
    by Kyle Lucia Wu
    Kyle Lucia Wu's Win Me Something opens with a young woman named Willa explaining that she did not ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    True Crime Story
    by Joseph Knox

    The #1 international bestselling novel. What happens to all the girls who go missing?

Win This Book!
Win Taste Makers

Taste Makers
by Mayukh Sen

America's modern culinary history told through the lives of seven pathbreaking chefs and food writers.

Enter

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.