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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Sundown towns - Washington State

Black people were not allowed to live in many towns and suburbs in Washington state during the era before the National Fair Housing Act (1968) and some towns operated with unofficial sundown rules. African Americans might work in the community but were expected to leave in the evening. Black men would be harrassed after dark, either by law enforcement or by white residents, typically young men in cars. Kennewick was the most notorious sundown town in Washington. Black workers were expected to cross the Columbia river bridge to East Pasco before dark. We are investigating other examples. In the meantime, here is a map of suspected communities based on 1970 census data. Towns marked in red had zero (0) Black households in 1970; orange means less than 7 (1-6); yellow means less than 20. Household numbers are more revealing than population figures which would include persons working as domestic servants and persons held in institutions. Hover for detailed demographics.

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These are preliminary findings and subject to revision. We are still adding and confirming data. The maps and tables are calculated from data available from the National Historical Geographic Information System (IPUMS): Steven Manson, Jonathan Schroeder, David Van Riper, Katherine Knowles, Tracy Kugler, Finn Roberts, and Steven Ruggles. IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 18.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS. 2023.