Reviewing James Lowen’s book, SUNDOWN TOWNS: A HIDDEN DIMENSION OF AMERICAN RACISM, The New Press, New York, 2005.
Sundown Towns is the descriptive name applied to many American towns that had posted signs at the city limits warning African/American people to be out of the town limits before dark. The inscription was generally some variation of a warning to “get your black ass out of town before dark”. How does this historical racist phenomenon possibly impinge upon the world of rock art? Well, if painted on rock the message qualifies as a shameful but historical inscription.
This writer can testify to the presence of a wooden sign on the outskirts of one small town in east Tennessee in the late-1960s that said “N - - - - -r, don’t let the sun set on you in this town”. As convenient shorthand for the “get your black ass out of town” version many locales reportedly simply sported a painting of a black donkey (ass) on a convenient cliff or rock near the town limits, with its head pointed away from town. Those for whom the message was intended understood the message all too well.