THE INJUSTICE FILES: SUNDOWN TOWNS Premieres Monday, February 24 at 8/7c
(Silver Spring, MD) Don’t let the sun set on you in a sundown town. That’s what signs at the city limits of all-white communities warned when African-Americans were not allowed to live there or even visit after the sun set. This method of exclusion was often held by an official policy or restrictive covenant-. The practice of excluding blacks from American towns was so prevalent that, by 1936, it became the impetus for Harlem civic leader Victor Green to pen the Negro Motorist Green-Book, a guide designed to help African-American travelers avoid places where they could be harassed, threatened, or even killed. Today, it is illegal for sundown towns to exist on paper due to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, but some believe that communities remain sundown by reputation and reluctance to diversify. In the fourth installment of Investigation Discovery’s Black History Month anthology THE INJUSTICE FILES, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp takes a cross-country road trip to explore whether these exclusionary practices still exist today. Produced exclusively for Investigation Discovery by Al Roker Entertainment, THE INJUSTICE FILES: SUNDOWN TOWNS one-hour special premieres Monday, February 24 at 8/7c.
“We are thrilled to work with Keith Beauchamp, one of America’s leading investigative filmmakers, and the revered team at Al Roker Entertainment on this fourth installment in the INJUSTICE FILES anthology, which has built a reputation for exposing unresolved Civil Rights cases and modern-day discrimination,” said Kevin Bennett, general manager of Investigation Discovery. “We hope this special draws attention to racial discrimination cases that deserve closure and inspires viewers to push for progress on civil rights issues that are affecting their hometown communities.”
“It is unbelievable to find that sundown towns may still be a reality in the United States,” said Al Roker, CEO of Al Roker Entertainment. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with Investigation Discovery to shed light on a situation that many people don’t even realize could be in their own backyards.”
“When we set out to film THE INJUSTICE FILES: SUNDOWN TOWNS, my objective was to challenge the opinion that sundown towns still exist in America today. Can African-Americans really travel wherever they please in this modern America?” Beauchamp said. “Now having visited communities that were historically known as sundown towns, I am left with the sense that rules may have changed by the book, but towns still exist where the social standard hasn’t been reset.”
Beauchamp explains that sundown towns are largely a northern phenomenon born from how African-Americans in the region typically made their living. Work largely consisted of daytime domestic responsibilities and thus nightly curfews were created to encourage African-American workers to leave town promptly at the end of their shift. THE INJUSTICE FILES: SUNDOWN TOWNS travels to three historically-sundown towns in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio:
Martinsville, IN – Beauchamp and his crew travel to Martinsville, where they go undercover to investigate the case of CAROL JENKINS, a 21-year-old African-American woman. On September 16, 1968, Jenkins found herself in town after dark while selling encyclopedias door to door. She was harassed by two men in a car following her and sought refuge in the home of white local residents Don and Norma Neal, who would become the last people to see Jenkins alive after she thanked them for their hospitality and disappeared into the darkness. She was killed 30 minutes later just a few blocks away. Forty-five years later, the case remains unresolved and Jenkins’ family is still looking for closure. The Neals take Beauchamp to the very spot where Jenkins took her last breath.
Vienna, IL – In Vienna, Beauchamp meets Dr. James Loewen, best-selling author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, who sheds historical light on the discriminatory practice. They retrace the steps of a horrific 1954 attack that lead to the banishment of an entire African-American community, resulting in what became an all-white town overnight. It was alleged that two black men killed an elderly white woman and tried to rape her teenage granddaughter. The white residents of Vienna became enraged and burned the black neighborhood to the ground, thus “cleansing” the town of its African-American population. Beauchamp and Dr. Loewen drive through the deep woods looking for what’s left of the black community, the most obvious remnant being the ruin of a bridge that used to divide the black side of town from the white side. After the burning, the bridge was abandoned and now lingers as a reminder of that separation.
Waverly, OH – Waverly is one of the few sundown towns that existed before the Civil War, with its reputation traceable back to the mid-17th century. In 1830, the Downing family donated the town square under the condition that no African-Americans live within the city limits. Flash forward 150 years and the attitude of Waverly residents toward American-Americans had changed little. DR. DAVID HOXIE speaks on television for the first time about his experience setting up a medical practice in Waverly in 1997 and his claim that the community ran him out of town in 2004 after years of enduring what he calls “a toxic potion” of “racism, professional jealousy, material envy.”Beauchamp explains that this and hundreds of towns used to have signs at their town borders that read, “Whites Only Within City Limits After Dark.”
THE INJUSTICE FILES: SUNDOWN TOWNS is produced for Investigation Discovery by Al Roker Entertainment with executive producers Al Roker, Keith Beauchamp, and Dan Bowen. For Investigation Discovery, Lorna Thomas is executive producer, Sara Kozak is SVP of production, Kevin Bennett is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is Group President of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
About Investigation Discovery
Investigation Discovery (ID) is the leading mystery-and-suspense network on television and America’s favorite “guilty pleasure.” From harrowing crimes and salacious scandals to the in-depth investigations and heart-breaking mysteries that result, ID challenges our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. One of our nation’s fastest growing cable networks, ID delivers the highest-quality programming to nearly 85 million U.S. households and is available in both high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD). For more information, please visit InvestigationDiscovery.com, facebook.com/InvestigationDiscovery, or twitter.com/DiscoveryID. Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the world’s #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 2 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.
About Al Roker Entertainment
Formed in 1994, Al Roker Entertainment, Inc. (ARE) is a thriving television production company based in NYC involved in the development and production of network and cable television projects. Al Roker is CEO. ARE produces programming for a diverse clientele. Recent productions include multiple seasons of “Coast Guard Alaska” and “Coast Guard Florida” as well as the launch of “Coast Guard Disappointment Pacific Northwest” (The Weather Channel), “Kimberly’s Simply Southern” (Great American Country), “Bordertown: Laredo” (A&E), “Stuffed: Food Hoarders” (The Cooking Channel), “Iced with Sylvia Weinstock” (WEtv), “Child Hunger Ends Here: A Special Report (NBC), “DEA” Seasons 1 and 2 (Spike TV), “Last Chance Highway” (Animal Planet), Celebrity Holiday Homes 2010 & 2011 (HGTV) “Together For Care” Telethon benefitting the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America 2010 (NBC), “Al Roker Reporting” (MSNBC), “Profiles in Courage: A Kennedy Legacy” (NBC Station Group), “An Honor Deferred” (History Channel), “Inside Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” (NBC), “Recipe for Success” (Food Network), “Renovate My Place” (TV One), “Roker on the Road” (Food Network), “Heavyweights” (Food Network), “The 2007 Quill Book Awards” 2005, 2006 & 2007 (NBC), “Diabetes: The Quiet Killer”(NBC), “Brain Attack: A Stroke Survival Guide” (NBC), “Uncovered: The Hidden Lives of Miss USA” (E! Entertainment Network), “Tribeca Film Festival: Live from The Red Carpet” (NBC) and “Going Places” (PBS). ARE produces award-winning content: In January 2014, Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman, star of “Kimberly’s Simply Southern,” was honored as “Best Home Chef in a Series” at the 5th Annual Taste Awards. Additionally, in 2013 Pedigree won the Cannes’ Silver Lion Award for “Annie’s Search for Sandy” and The Humane Society of the United States honored ARE’s Animal Planet series, “Last Chance Highway” in the category of “Outstanding Reality Series” at the 25th Anniversary Genesis Awards (2011). For more information, visit www.alrokerentertainment.com.
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