It is a scenario that many Blacks over 50 years of age may not have imagined. African-Americans from across the Midwest and East Coast are moving back to the states of the former Confederacy that they and their parents fled.
Those are among the facts that emerged from a study that the Queens College department of Sociology conducted for the New York Times. Today African-Americans are increasingly heading South with the prospect of a better economic life, reversing the journey of ancestors who moved North to escape American Apartheid.
Between the 1917 and into the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Blacks were part of the Great Migration to the North and Midwest to escape life under Jim Crow, or legal and not equal separation denied: jobs, education and the opportunity to lead a life significantly, if not completely, unencumbered by discrimination based upon race.
The recent Queens College study showed that according to census data roughly 17 percent of the Blacks that moved to the South in the last 10 years came from New York state.
More striking is that in 2009 more than half of the 44,474 African-Americans who left New York state that year went South. But the New Yorkers are not an anomaly. Blacks from the Midwest and other urban areas in the East are also heading back to what for many are their roots.
Spencer Crew, a history professor at George Mason University is an expert on the Great Migration, and curated a Smithsonian exhibition on it. Crew told the Times why the South has a new allure for Blacks.
Crew, who is African-American, said, “New York has lost some of its cachet for Black people. During the Great Migration, Blacks went North because you could find work if you were willing to hustle. But today, there is less of a struggle to survive in the South than in New York. Many Blacks also have emotional and spiritual roots in the South. It is like returning home.”
(Photo: Carlos Barria/Landov)