It is time to talk about what some people would rather forget.

The sign was blunt. There was no question about its message or target.

The first word was offensive.

Don't let the sun set on your head in this town.

The sign went up at the train station. It was moved to the middle of the street.

It happened a century ago. In Texas.

De Leon is in Texas.

There were other signs like that in Texas. I have met people who claimed to have seen signs in Glen Rose and Grand Saline.

Don't get me wrong. I am not picking on Texas or the South.

Similar racist signs were found in towns in California, Washington, Nebraska and Indiana. A town in British Columbia had a sign telling Chinese to stay out.

De Leon, 95 miles southwest of Fort Worth, had one of those signs for a long time.

The late historian James W. Loewen, author of “Sundown Towns,’’ said he found evidence of more than 150 sundown signs in 31 states. He defined “sundown towns” as “towns that were all white on purpose.”
The late historian James W. Loewen, author of “Sundown Towns,’’ said he found evidence of more than 150 sundown signs in 31 states. He defined “sundown towns” as “towns that were all white on purpose.”

It went up in the decade after Reconstruction.

The nice people in that peanut farming town might forget about it.

Two historians have written about it.

The De Leon sign is part of a more shameful story.

The Black residents of Comanche County were forced to leave.

The market for cattle and cotton was growing in the late 19th century. There are 8,608 people in the towns of Comanche, De Leon and Gustine and the surrounding county.

Race relations and the justice system were problematic in Texas. In 1885, white lynch mobs killed 23 white men, 19 black men and one white woman and began to undermine the justice system.

The killing of a white woman began the next year's exodus from Comanche County.

The lynching of a Black suspect named Tom McNeal was reported by historian B.B. Lightfoot. After the sign went up at the De Leon train station, armed white people went door-to-door and told every black person in the area to leave.

Every Black family moved to either Dallas or Waco. They left family homes, churches, farms and the land of lifelong memories.

The only black residents were two orphans who lived with white families.

The De Leon sign was asked to be moved by the Texas Central Railroad. The train workers were being threatened.

It was moved to the town well in the middle of Texas Avenue between the peanut mill and a tractor dealer, according to an updated 1996 report in a local magazine.

One of the few places in the South that has no apparent race problem is Comanche County.

The New Handbook states that there was no Black resident in 1940. The census counted two by 1970.

The number of Black residents in the county is still lower than it was in the past.

The De Leon sign was taken down.

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