Sundown towns were municipalities in which people of color (predominantly Black people in much of the country but included people of Mexican, Latin American, and Asian descent in many sundown towns of Southern California) were permitted to enter and work during the day, but were barred from being present in the town after dusk.1 These towns were not an official designation nor had singular laws that were explicit in their exclusion of people of color, but were rather enforced by a series of policies and cultural norms. The following sections discuss some specific regulations that enforced South Pasadena’s status as a sundown town, specifically our role in Japanese incarceration, segregation at The Plunge, and the legacy of redlining.
South Pasadena is one of many California cities that have received this designation in the eyes of historians.1 In addition to the policies and practices discussed in the following sections, there is evidence to show that South Pasadena even had a citywide air-raid system that sounded an alarm at dusk each night to signify that people of color were to leave city limits or face law enforcement.2 In many sundown towns, there has been ample evidence and stories of law enforcement using excessive force to ensure the absence of people of color in cities after dark.1
As Tiger Newspaper cites, the City Manager of South Pasadena in 1946, Frank Clough, is recorded as saying that, “We do not have any Negroes, nor do we have any other non-Caucasian people in South Pasadena.”
1. Route 66 News. “Should Route 66 towns that were sundown towns apologize?” Route 66 News. January 21, 2014. https://www.route66news.com/2014/01/21/route-66-towns-former-sundown-towns-apologize/
2. Kuhn, Noah. “We Need to Teach our History of Racism.” Tiger Newspaper. August 2, 2019. https://tigernewspaper.com/we-need-to-teach-our-history-of-racism/