Photo Credit: Josie Stephens/Pexels
TikTokers Warn Black Travelers of Sundown Towns
“Don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.” If you were a Black traveler during the Jim Crow era and saw these words painted on a roadside sign, you would instantly want to turn back around and head in the opposite direction. Signs like this were fairly commonplace in America during the late 1800s and 1900s. They were an ominous decree to Black travelers that they were about to enter a sundown town.
A sundown town is a mostly all-white community that for decades kept non-whites from living in their town. Many towns drove out their Black populations or passed laws barring African Americans after dark or prohibiting them from owning or renting property. They’d typically do this by means of discriminatory laws, harassment and intimidation, and sometimes violence. Some sundown towns also kept out Jews, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, and other minority groups, but their main objective was to keep out African Americans.
After the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the number of sundown towns in America was significantly reduced, but not eradicated. While there may not be signs telling Black visitors to beware anymore, there are still towns in America that aren’t safe for Black people. Present-day sundown towns have mostly affected Black truck drivers and Black drivers in general. If you’re Black and frequently travel across the U.S., you should check out this sundown town database, which identifies possible sundown towns in every state.
Another way to get more information on alleged sundown towns and unsafe areas for Black people is through social media. Many users have posted first-hand accounts and educational videos on their platforms to warn other Black travelers against the potential dangers. A quick #sundowntown search on TikTok, yields a massive amount of results—here are just a few of them.
Disclaimer: The opinions featured in the videos reflect the viewpoints of the video creators. Any towns and areas mentioned aren’t necessarily a confirmed sundown town.
Sharing First-Hand Accounts and Advice
@quorisworld shared a 5-part video detailing her experience of driving through a suspected sundown town in Alabama.
@desitheartist tells travelers which places she doesn’t stop at and what she looks out for when on the road.
Educating People on the History of Sundown Towns
@itsjusttemily educates viewers on the history and impact of sundown towns in America.
@blackkout___ details the legacy of sundown towns and explains how certain minorities were targeted throughout the U.S.
Revealing Racial Discrimination in Their Towns
@bren.d.o takes viewers through a road trip and history lesson on race relations in Southern Illinois.
@leftovergains explores the history of discrimination in the town of Tempe, Arizona.
Reply to @quinnfluence Todays #phoenixhistoryfriday features the town next door lol, #tempe ! #tempeaz was known as a “sundown town” until fairly recently, heres a little backstory on that!themoreyouknow™ #sundowntown #sunsettown #greytown
@formerlovepoet takes a brief drive through a small town in New York and recounts the first time he was called a racial slur.