Friday, January 16, 2009

Principia College Invites Elsah Residents to Revisit Old "Sun Down" Laws

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 1:01 PM

On the heels of next week's inauguration of the nation's first African-American president,  Principia College is inviting author James Loewen and residents of Elsah, Illinois, to discuss the city's old "sun down" laws.

As Loewen documented in his 2005 book Sundown Towns, Elsah -- home to Principia College and located just north of Alton -- was one of thousands of cities across America that required blacks to leave city limits by dusk.

"When I began this research, I expected to find about ten sundown towns in Illinois and perhaps 50 across the country. Instead, I have found more than 440 in Illinois and thousands across the United States," says Loewen. 

In the 1930s Principia College complied with Elsah's sun-down rule by purchasing  a station wagon so black employees could commute nightly to their homes in St. Louis.

You can view a database of confirmed (and suspected) sun-down cities in the U.S. here. Loewen's conversation will be held January 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the school's Wanamaker Hall.

I wonder: Is that what Elton John has been singing about this whole time?

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