Welcome to Rogers -- All White and All Right!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcome to Rogers -- All White and All Right!

I don't know if there was ever a roadside sign with those words on it, but that headline was inspired by this article in today's Washington Post:
The signs are gone now but once they were a part of America's roadside culture, posted along the highway at the town or county line, a blunt reminder of brutal racism.

"Most read 'Nigger, Don't Let the Sun Set on You in -- ,' " says James Loewen, the Washington-based author of a controversial new book called "Sundown Towns."

... Most of the signs were posted in the first half of the 20th century, Loewen says, but some lingered on long afterward. They were not a Southern phenomenon, he stresses. They were found all over the United States with local variations:

In Colorado: "No Mexicans After Night."

In Connecticut: "Whites Only Within City Limits After Dark."

... "I thought I was going to discover maybe 10 such towns in Illinois and maybe 50 across the country," [Loewen] says. "And I've confirmed 204 in Illinois and, in the country, thousands."

... Loewen dug up many examples of towns touting their whiteness. In 1907, Rogers, Ark., published a guide that announced: "Rogers has no Negroes or saloons."

In 1936, Owosso, Mich., proudly declared: "There is not a Negro living in the limits of Owosso's incorporated territory." In 1958, the chairman of Maryville, Mo.'s Industrial Development Corp. touted his town to businessmen with this pitch:

"We don't have any niggers here in Maryville. . . . We had to lynch one back in 1931 . . . and the rest of them just up and left."
It's both amazing and disgusting that, in 1958, that was the message that a Missouri town felt would help it attract businesses.

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