James W Loewen

James W. Loewen

Racial History and Sundown Towns

Ep. 39 - James Loewen's gripping retelling of American history as it should, and could, be taught, Lies My Teacher Told Me, has sold more than 1,500,000 copies and continues to inspire K-16 teachers to get students to challenge, rather than memorize, their textbooks. Jim Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. Previously he taught at predominantly black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He now lives in Washington, D.C., continuing his research on how Americans remember their past. His mission is to overturn myths and misinformation that too often pass for U.S. history. He spent two years at the Smithsonian Institution, where he studied and compared twelve American history textbooks then widely used throughout the United States. He gives an explosive interview and tells us all about sundown towns and their effect on race relations and fair housing.

"Telling the truth about the past helps cause justice in the present. Achieving justice in the present helps us tell the truth about the past."  

Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong came out in 1999. The Gustavus Myers Foundation named his book, Sundown Towns, a "Distinguished Book of 2005." In 2010, Teachers College Press brought out Teaching What Really Happened, intended to give K-12 teachers (and prospective teachers) solutions to the problems pointed out in Loewen�s earlier works.

He has been an expert witness in more than 50 civil rights, voting rights, and employment cases. His awards include the First Annual Spivack Award of the American Sociological Association for "sociological research applied to the field of intergroup relations," the American Book Award (for Lies My Teacher Told Me), and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship. He is also Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians and Visiting Professor of Sociology at Catholic University in Washington, DC. In 2012 the American Sociological Association gave Loewen its Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award, for "scholarship in service to social justice."  He is the first white person ever to win this award.  Also in 2012, the National Council for the Social Studies gave Loewen its "Spirit of America" Award, previously won by, inter alia, Jimmy Carter, Rosa Parks, and Mr. Rogers.

As the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War approached, Loewen asked thousands of K-12 teachers in workshops and audiences about its cause(s).  Depressed at their replies, he recruited a co-editor and published The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader (University Press of Mississippi, 2010), which sets the record straight in Confederates' own words. 

His other books include Mississippi: Conflict and Change (co authored), which won the Lillian Smith Award for Best Southern Nonfiction but was rejected for public school text use by the State of Mississippi, leading to the path breaking First Amendment lawsuit, Loewen et al. v. Turnipseed, et al. He also wrote The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and WhiteSocial Science in the Courtroom, and Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus. ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, at its centennial Founders Day in 2016, honored James Loewen as one of 32 "Rays of Light"

Listen to his thoughts on Black Lives Matter, sundown towns, civil rights, social justice and taking down the symbols of the confederacy.

Top Takeaways:

  • Fighting for the true history especially when it’s ugly and controversial
  • Understanding when racism increased, how we make a racist society, and how we can make a non-racist society
  • The history of the sundown towns and the racism behind them
  • The power of telling the truth about the past to bring justice to the present
  • Why you need to stand for something as a leader while being impartial and non-manipulative
  • How social injustice and pollution of the environment is slowly destroying society

Key Moments:

He explains the history class about reconstruction that opened his eyes into the non-truth in written history books which led to writing his book ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me’ [2:56]

The passion caused by anger towards the lies told to history students by people who knew the truth but chose to avoid the controversy behind it [9:15]

How his life in college studying sociology and interacting with diverse race students changed his entire life to be that of telling truthful history [11:52]

He explains the racist history of sundown towns and how that has been changing in recent times [16:09]

Why he chooses to tell the truth about racial injustice that has been distorted for many years [20:19]

He talks about his participation in the black lives matter movement and the impactful arguments he’s made [23:14]

Why we need a more educated populous to have great leaders that understand the history and the change to be made [25:27]

Jim explains the two major problems of social injustice and environmental pollution that are facing society today [28:11]

He talks about his new book filled with his canoeing fiascos and some sociology topics [29:58]

He describes the fulfillment of his life even as he battles terminal cancer [34:00]

Wikipedia James W Loewen

James W Loewen Home Page

Tougaloo College Awards Loewen an Honorary Degree - Part 1
Tougaloo College Awards Loewen an Honorary Degree - Part 2

Brian Lamb Interviews Loewen about Lies My Teacher Told Me
George Zimmerman and James Loewen
Loewen Keynotes National Association for Interpretation
Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims
What's Wrong with the Confederate Monument in Alexandria?
Loewen Appears on "Free Speech TV"
Loewen on Getting Abraham Lincoln Wrong
Loewen on "All Things Considered" about Getting the Confederacy Wrong
Loewen on "CounterSpin"

Decatur, Illinois proclaims "James William Loewen Day"

"Helen Keller Speaks"
"Circling the Wagons"
"Getting the Civil War Right"
"Sundown Towns and Counties: Racial Exclusion in the South"
"Using Confederate Documents to Teach About Secession, Slavery, and the Origins of the Civil War"

"Was your town a sundown town?"
"Who controls the past controls the future"
"Loewen Testifies Against the SAT to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission"