DECATUR — An award-winning author and Decatur native returned to the community Tuesday to share his research and experiences with his hometown.
James Loewen, 77, a 1960 graduate of MacArthur High School, is best known for his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” which has sold more than 2 million copies. He is a sociologist emeritus at the University of Vermont where he taught race relations for 20 years.
Loewen on Tuesday discussed his book, “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” during a presentation at the Decatur Public Library. It explores communities in which minorities were not welcome at night and explores racial exclusion.
“I'm concerned with two interlocking issues: telling the truth throughout the past and achieving justice in the present, and I think the two are connected,” he said during the event.
At a writer’s conference 18 years ago at the Decatur library, Loewen asked those in attendance about their experiences with “sundown towns.” The input from about 20 people helped spur him to research area communities, he said.
Loewen was born in Decatur and attended Dennis School, Woodrow Wilson Junior High School and MacArthur, where he graduated as National Merit Scholar. He received his doctorate from Harvard University. He also taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, the University of Vermont and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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Loewen has been an expert witness in more than 50 civil rights, voting rights and employment cases. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he continues research on how Americans remember their past.
“I think it's great that a native that has become someone who is nationally recognized and, in fact, world famous, comes back to his roots,” City Librarian Rick Meyer said .
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe proclaimed Oct. 8 as James William Loewen Day in Decatur, signed into approval Monday at the city council meeting. “We would like to recognize and honor Mr. Loewen on all his accomplishments and wish him continued success in all his future endeavors,” said Moore Wolfe in a statement.
Loewen is set to make two more public appearances this week in Decatur.
At 7 p.m. tonight on the third floor of the University Commons at Millikin University, he is set to discuss “Symbols of the Confederacy.” At 11 a.m. Thursday, he will speak at Richland Community College on “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” sharing his perspective on how history is taught in schools.