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FutureStarrA Sundown Towns in Georgia
By the time Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta was incorporated in 1847, the surrounding counties had already largely drawn the color line when it came to African Americans. In 1890,. . .
Sundown towns are white communities that intentionally prevent Black people (and sometimes other racial or ethnic groups) from residing there. Most sundown towns were created and enforced by mob violence. However, powerful whites established others by organizing “buyout campaigns” that made it too expensive for most Blacks to own homes and restrictive covenants that banned property sales or renting to Black people. In many cases, local whites even posted signs warning African Americans not to remain in town overnight. Oral evidence suggests that such a sign may have once stood in Forsyth County, though no documentation has been identified. James W. Loewen, a leading researcher on sundown towns, identified Forsyth County as one of the South’s most notorious examples of the phenomena.
This one legal victory did not stop towns from developing into sundown towns. City planners and real estate companies used their power and authority to ensure that white communities remained white, and black communities remained black. These were private individuals making decisions to personally benefit themselves, their companies' profits, or their cities' alleged safety, so their methods in creating sundown towns were often ignored by the courts. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)
And this kind of led to a real outpouring of, you know, anger among the white community, and there were death threats made to the organizers. And eventually it was taken up by Hosea Williams who was one of Martin Luther King's sort of right-hand man during the civil rights battles of the '50s and '60s. And so a group of about 75 activists, including mostly African-American activists from the King Center in Atlanta and a handful of local white people, including my mother, my father and my sister, really had a kind of modest plan which was a short march into the town the county seat of Cumming and the goal was simply to speak out against fear and intimidation and to celebrate the King holiday. And they were met by a real mob of rock throwing, bottle throwing, cursing, you know, kind of racist slurs spewing white people from the county and eventually the Georgia Bureau of Investigation started to arrest people in the crowd who they figured out were armed.
PHILLIPS: You know, our move there is complicated, and I think that it's not that my parents didn't know that Forsyth County was racist. It was that it was so common in 1977 in Georgia, and I think an important part of their background is my parents are both from Birmingham. And they were, you know, my father graduated from high school in 1955. So they were young people on one side of a real generational split in their families. And they, you know, my father was in seminary at Emory and had met Martin Luther King in the really, you know, sort of vital early days of the Civil Rights movement. (Source: www.npr.org)