The Hidden History of When Black People Were Not Allowed in Towns After Dark (2005)
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James William Loewen (born February 6, 1942) is an American sociologist, historian, and author, best known for his 1995 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, which was republished in 2008.
Loewen was born in Decatur, Illinois, to Winifred and David F. Loewen, on February 6, 1942. His mother was a librarian and teacher, and his father was a medical director and doctor. Loewen grew up in Decatur. He was a National Merit Scholar as a graduate in 1960 from MacArthur High School.
Loewen attended Carleton College. In 1963, as a junior, he spent a semester in Mississippi, an experience in a different culture that led to his questioning what he had been taught about United States history. He was intrigued by learning about the unique place of nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants and their descendants in Mississippi culture, commonly thought of as biracial. Loewen went on to earn a PhD in sociology from Harvard University based on his research on Chinese Americans in Mississippi.
Continuing his interest in racism in the United States, Loewen wrote Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, which was released in 2005. The book documents the histories of sundown towns, which are towns where African Americans, Jews, and other minority groups were forced (or strongly encouraged) to leave prior to sundown in order to avoid racist violence threatened and perpetrated by the towns' majority white populations. A review of the book, in the Washington Post, noted that even though Loewen dedicated an entire chapter to research methodology, his claims regarding the number of communities which supported racial exclusion policies is both widely variable and vague. The review stated "This vagueness, along with Loewen's almost evangelical passion for his material, raises questions of credibility â or at least of potential overstatement." Loewen has written about sundown towns repeatedly throughout his career, including in Lies Across America, where he notably cited the affluent suburb of Darien, Connecticut as meeting his definition of a modern-day de facto sundown town.
In 2010, Loewen and Edward H. Sebesta co-authored the book, The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The Great Truth about the Lost Cause, an anthology containing a wide array of primary source documents pertaining to the Confederacy from the time of the American Civil War.
At present, Loewen is researching a new book, Surprises on the Landscape: Unexpected Places That Get History Right. The book is planned as follow-up to Lies Across America, which noted historically inaccurate or misleading historical markers and sites across the United States. Surprises will call attention to historical sites that are accurate and provide honest representations of events. His official website invites the public to comment on what towns and historical sites should be included in terms of presenting history "right".