The Sunrise Project:


Sundown towns were communities that purposefully excluded African Americans and other racial minorities from living in, or simply passing through, their community through a culture of fear, violence, and intimidation.

Racial Exclusion in Oregon

When Oregon became a state in 1859, it entered into the Union with Black exclusionary laws, essentially making it a “whites only state.” In 1890, 17 of Oregon’s 32 counties had 0-10 African Americans living in them.

However, by 1930, 28 of Oregon’s 32 counties had 0-10 African Americans living in them. African Americans were pushed from rural communities into condensed urban settings. It is estimated that most of Oregon was once a sundown town.

Please join us in preserving the history of sundown towns in Oregon so that we may learn from it, grow from it, and use it to create a more welcoming community for us all.

Lingering Effects

Our state and national consciousness have attempted to forget this history. Newspapers, historical societies, and history textbooks make little mention of sundown towns. Many present-day residents are unaware of their community’s history of racial exclusion, yet the remnants of that history remain today.

African Americans are still wary of traveling throughout much of Oregon, and, those who are brave enough to settle where they were once unwelcome, continue to experience the lingering ramifications of communities that have not yet reconciled their history of racial exclusion.

News From the Day

Consider this 1905 newspaper article about Syracuse, Ohio.

In Syracuse, Ohio, on the Ohio river, a town of about 2,000 inhabitants, no Negro is permitted to live, not even to stay overnight under any consideration. This is an absolute rule in this year 1905, and has existed for several generations. The enforcement of this unwritten law is in the hands of the boys from 8 to 20 years of age…

When a Negro is seen in town during the day he is generally told of these traditions…and is warned to leave before sundown. If he fails to take heed, he is surrounded at about the time darkness begins, and is addressed by the leader of the gang in about this language: ‘No nigger is allowed to stay in this town over night. Get out of here now, and get out quick.’

He sees from 25 to 30 boys around him talking in subdued voices and waiting to see whether he obeys. If he hesitates, little stones begin to reach from unseen quarters and soon persuade him to begin his hegira. He is not allowed to walk, but is told to ‘Get on his little dog trot.’ The command is always effective for it is backed by stones in the ready hands of boys none too friendly.

So long as he keeps up a good gait, the crowd, which follows just at his heels, and which keeps growing until it sometimes numbers 75 to 100 boys, is good-natured and contents itself with yelling, laughing, and hurling gibes at its victim. But let him stop his ‘trot’ for one moment, from any cause whatever, and the stones immediately take effect as their chief persuader.

Thus they follow him to the farthest limits of the town, where they send him on, while they return to the city with triumph and tell their fathers all about the function, how fast the victim ran, how scared he was, how he pleaded and promised that he would go and never return if they would only leave him alone.

Then the fathers tell how they used to do the same thing, and thus the heroes of two wars spend the rest of the evening by the old campfire, recounting their several campaigns.

Learn more about Sundown Towns nationally with ProPublica’s feature on the Legend of A-N-N-A and this interactive map of sundown towns across America.

Discover More

Read our articles to learn about Sundown Towns.

Our Work

The Sunrise Project seeks to help communities reconcile their history as a sundown town by developing a new identity as that of a “sunrise community,” the opposite to a sundown town.

Grants Pass Remembrance

Since 2021, ORP has supported the growth of a local truth and reconciliation coalition in Grants Pass, OR. Their goal is to help Grants Pass develop a reputation for being welcoming to all.