C) Stories of Denial

I spent a day in Villa Grove, Illinois, south of Champaign-Urbana.... [U]ntil recent years Villa Grove had sounded a whistle at 6pm every evening to warn African Americans to get out of town. My last interview of the day was with the editor of Villa Grove's weekly newspaper....

"Hello, I'm Jim Loewen. I grew up over in Decatur, and now I'm doing research on all-white towns that are all-white on purpose, including this one."

The editor nodded.

"I understand you have, or used to have until recently, a whistle on your water tower that went off every evening at 6pm."

"Yes," he agreed.

"Tell me the story about that whistle," I asked.

"I don't know any story about that whistle," he replied.

"OK," I said, and started to make my farewell. Nine of eleven interviewees had already confirmed the story, and I saw no reason to question him further.

As I turned to leave, his secretary asked me, "You mean the story that that was the signal for blacks to be out of town?"

I nodded and replied, "Yes, that story."

"I never heard that story!" she said. (204)

Sundown Towns (2005)
Jim Loewen