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date: 05 March 2021

African American Migration from the Colonial Era to the Present

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores several overlapping waves of black population movement from the African background through the early twenty-first century. It shows how enslaved people dominated the first two great migrations—from Africa to the tobacco-producing colonies of British North America and later from the Upper South to the cotton-producing lands of the Deep South. In the wake of the Civil War and the emancipation of some 4 million enslaved people, the great farm-to-city migration gradually transformed African Americans from a predominantly rural southern people into the most urbanized sector of the nation’s population. While massive black population movements resulted in substantial disruption of established patterns of cultural, institutional, and political life, African Americans built and rebuilt forms of community under the impact of new conditions, including the rise of a new wave of voluntary black migration from Africa and elsewhere by the close of the 20th century.

Keywords: Africa, African Americans, British North America, Civil War, Deep South, emancipation, great migrations, rural, Upper South, urban

Migration has been an enduring theme in African American history. Yet, during the first 250 years of the nation’s history, the vast majority of African people entered the New World primarily as enslaved or “forced migrants.” They moved from one agricultural region to another. During the colonial era, the first generation moved from West Africa to the staple-producing areas of the Upper and Lower South. In the wake of the American Revolution and the rise of the new republic, enslaved people migrated from the Upper South tobacco area to the booming cotton-producing Deep South states. Following the Civil War and the advent of emancipation, coerced migration gradually gave way to the “voluntary” movement of African Americans from farm to city. By the mid-20th century, the Great Migration from rural to urban America resulted in the transformation of African Americans into a predominantly city people. While massive black population movements disrupted established cultural, political, and social relations, migration also gave rise to new forms of family, community, and political struggles for full citizenship rights. Despite the persistence of significant internal cultural, ideological, and social conflict, African Americans forged dynamic political movements designed to secure their own freedom. Their efforts not only ended the system of slavery and later Jim Crow but also helped to transform America into a broader and more inclusive democracy, including the liberalization of U.S. immigration policies.1

Coerced and voluntary forms of black migration had deep roots in the soil of precolonial West Africa. The medieval expansion of the trans-Saharan trade network and the advent of Islam opened the door to massive population movement in the region, including an extensive trade in human beings across the desert. Some 3.5 million Africans entered North Africa and the Mediterranean world as slaves between 900 and 1400 CE.2 But the arrival (p. 87) of Europeans opened a new and more coercive chapter in the history of black migration. An estimated 11 million Africans entered the New World under the impact of the international slave trade. Africans endured not only a painful separation from their homeland but also the infamous “Middle Passage” across the Atlantic. Predominantly young men in their prime working years (supplemented by a few women and children), enslaved Africans traveled to the New World under armed guards in the holds of tightly packed, disease-ridden, and violent ships. Some 2 million Africans lost their lives at sea, devoured by the ever-present sharks that traveled in the wake of slave ships. Even as Africans endured some of the most destructive conditions of human bondage, they gradually forged bonds with their “shipmates.” These bonds would enable them to begin the process of bridging the gap between various African ethnicities and forging a New World African American culture and forms of resistance, including revolts, mutinies, and plots to revolt.3

Most Africans bound for the New World entered the European-controlled plantation regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. Only about 5 percent, or 300,000 Africans, arrived in British North America, mainly via the West Indies. Men outnumbered women and children, and the number of deaths greatly exceeded births. By the 1730s and 1740s, however, as the demographic balance between men, women, and children improved, African Americans gradually made the transition to a self-sustaining population. The black population rose to an estimated 600,000 people by the end of the American Revolution, nearly double the number of all Africans who reached North America during the era of the Atlantic slave trade. For a brief moment, between 1619 and 1660, Africans shared an unfree status with white indentured servants. Some first-generation Africans gained their freedom, purchased land, married, raised families, and imported their own servants. By the early 1700s, however, in both the North and South, colonial law declared African people slaves “durante vita” or slaves “for life,” while ensuring the eventual freedom of white indentured servants.4

Significant numbers of blacks arrived in the northern colonies, but the agricultural staple-producing areas of the Upper and Lower South claimed the bulk of enslaved Africans. Fewer than 100,000 of these blacks lived and worked outside the plantation South. Black people not only cultivated the principle cash crops—tobacco, rice, sugar, and indigo—but also cleared land and prepared plantations for cultivation and human habitation. Although colonial cities served primarily as suppliers of slave labor to nearby plantations and farms, enslaved people also lived and labored in the seaport cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah. In addition to work as general laborers, domestic, and personal servants, urban blacks worked in the households, shops, and businesses of merchants, landowners, and artisans.5 Advertisements for the sale of slaves frequently stressed the skills of black artisans as bricklayers, plasterer, blacksmiths, and coopers among many other craftsmen. In 1763, the New York Gazette advertised, “A Negro Man to be sold by Samuel Dunnscomb in New-Street, he is about 32 years of Age, understands most of the Cooper’s Business … He has been some Voyages to Sea.”6

Under the impact of the American Revolution, the rise of the “Cotton Kingdom,” and the dramatic expansion of the international textile industry, an estimated 1.5 million blacks moved under the force of the whip from the Upper South to the Lower (p. 88) South. As tobacco and, to some extent, rice declined as profitable cash crops, a variety of forces stimulated the emergence of cotton as the nation’s major engine of economic growth. The cotton gin revolutionized the labor-intensive process of separating the cotton fiber from its seed, while the adoption of new spinning and weaving machines transformed the textile industry into a mass producer of cotton fabrics. These technological developments paved the way for escalating demands for slave labor in the cotton fields. In 1830, an able-bodied male slave sold for about $350 in the Chesapeake region; three decades later, the price of a male slave had increased in the Deep South to between $1500 and $2000. African people not only picked cotton and transported it to the expanding gin houses, they also cut down trees, uprooted tree stumps, burned brush, and transformed overgrown land into places fit for cultivation and human settlement. They built “big houses,” slave quarters, barns, tool sheds, barrels, stables, and gin houses. Cotton production rose from fewer than 300,000 bales in 1820 to nearly 4.5 million bales in 1860. Slave labor not only fueled the spread of the cotton fields in the South but also spurred the growth of the textile industry in New England and abroad.7

The domestic slave trade gave rise to a new nineteenth-century “Middle Passage” in African American migration history. As Deep South planters cleared and opened increasing acres of cotton land, their Upper South counterparts perceived the transport and sale of slaves to the Deep South as a new financial bonanza. In addition to the proliferation of small trading companies, large slave-trading firms—Austin Woolfolk of Baltimore; Seth Woodruff of Lynchburg; and Franklin and Armfield of Alexandria, Virginia—established their own sales and marketing forces; purchased their own slave ships; built their own warehouses and holding facilities; and developed aggressive advertising campaigns designed to move enslaved Africans from the Upper to Lower South.8 In his narrative of life as a slave, Henry Bibb described the beginning of his journey from Kentucky to New Orleans after serving time in a slave prison:

“One Sabbath morning Garrison [the slave trader] … called us up to an anvil block, and the heavy log chains which we had been wearing on our legs during three months, were cut off. … The hand-cuffs were then put on to our wrists. We were coupled two and two—the right hand one to the left hand of another, and a long chain to connect us together. … We marched off to the river Ohio, to take passage on board the steamboat Water Witch.”9

During the 1830s, one visitor described conditions on the inland waterways in terms reminiscent of earlier conditions on the high seas:

“The hold was appropriated to the slaves, and is divided into two apartments. The after-hold will carry about eighty women, and the other about one hundred men. On either side [of the hold] were two platforms running the whole length; one raised a few inches, and the other half way up the deck. They were about five or six feet deep. On these the slaves lie, as close as they can be stowed.”10

(p. 89) Unlike the earlier Atlantic “Middle Passage,” more blacks reached the Deep South via overland caravans than by sea or the inland Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Alabama rivers. Using livestock halters, iron neck collars, leg chains, and padlocks, slave traders and their various assistants marched African people, sometimes numbering over 50 people, on foot across rough terrain for miles each day over several weeks until they reached their destination. In his narrative of life as a slave, Charles Ball described the coffle of over 50 slaves that brought him to the Deep South. The women, he said, “were tied together with a rope, about the size of a bed cord, which was tied like a halter round the neck of each; but the men … were very differently caparisoned. A strong iron collar was closely fitted by means of a padlock round each of our necks. A chain of iron about a hundred feet long was passed through the hasp of each padlock, except at the two ends, where the hasps of the padlocks passed through a link of the chain. In addition to this, we were handcuffed in pairs.” Other enslaved people made the journey south via rail. In 1856, according to a northern visitor to the South, Lyman Abbott, “every train going south” had 20 or more slaves on board.11

Small but important streams of immigration from overseas supplemented the larger Upper–to–Lower South movement of black people. Between the American Revolution and the 1808 termination of the Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 100,000 Africans entered the United States. After 1808, another 54,000 Africans entered the country via the underground smuggling trade. As late as 1859, the Clothilde, the last known slave ship to dock in a U.S. port, transported nearly 130 West African men, women, and children to Mobile, Alabama. Other blacks entered the United States from the Caribbean when the Haitian Revolution drove French slaveholders off the island.12

In order to maximize the use of slave labor year round, planters allowed growing numbers of rural blacks to move into cities to work under the “hiring out” system. Enslaved people entered contracts with employers in exchange for a set return on their labor to owners. After meeting their obligation to owners, some enslaved people saved enough money to purchase themselves and other family members. The flexibility of the hiring out system also provided an opportunity for fugitives to elude capture. By the late antebellum years, fugitives also joined the expanding underground railroad network to the free states of the North. The free black population rose from 60,000 in 1790 to nearly a half million by 1860. Over one-third of southern free blacks and the majority of their northern brothers and sisters lived in cities, while only 5 percent of slaves, 15 percent of southern whites, and about 40 percent of northern whites claimed urban residence. By the 1850s, New Orleans (27,000), Charleston (23,000), New York (14,000), and Philadelphia (11,000) had the largest concentrations of urban blacks, mainly slaves in the urban South and free blacks in the North. In both the North and South, unlike the plantation and farm, women who lived and worked in the households of white families made up the majority of antebellum black urbanites.13

In the wake of the Civil War and emancipation, voluntary migration gradually supplanted forced migration as the major engine of black population movement. Scores (p. 90) of freedmen and women moved to southern and northern cities seeking loved ones separated during the era of slavery and the perils of Civil War. In October 1867, ex-slave Elizabeth Low of Washington, D.C., asked the Freedmen’s Bureau to help her reclaim her daughter, Harriet, from a former slave-owner in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A year earlier, Henry Plummer traveled from Baltimore to New Orleans to locate his sister, Sarah Miranda Plummer. An advertisement in the Colored Tennessean offered a “$200 Reward” for the return of “our daughter, Polly, and son, Geo. Washington … to Nashville, or get word to us of their whereabouts, if they are alive.” Caroline Dodson’s mother also promised a reward for “any information” on the location of her daughter. During the war, slave owners had sold Caroline from Nashville, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia. After moving to Utica, New York, another ex-slave Samuel Dove searched “for his mother, Areno, his sisters Maria, Neziah, and Peggey, and his brother Edmond.” The slave trade had scattered family members to various parts of Virginia and Tennessee, including Richmond and Nashville. “Every mother’s son,” a Freedmen’s Bureau official reported, “seemed to be in search of his mother; every mother in search of her children.”14

The percentage of all blacks living in cities rose from less than 10 percent at the end of the Civil War to over 25 percent by World War I. Similar to the antebellum years, most early emancipation era migrants were black women bound for work in the households of white urban elites.15 At the same time, the number of black men also increased. Partly because migrants like P.B.S. Pinchback, former governor of Louisiana, and the educator Fannie Jackson Coppin of New Orleans expressed increasing dissatisfaction with the Jim Crow system by moving to the urban North, some contemporary observers and scholars referred to this population movement as the migration of the “talented tenth,” but the vast majority of pre-World War I migrants were members of the poor and working class. They came mainly from the Upper South states of Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky.16

Although blacks moved steadily toward cities after the Civil War, it was the interwar years that ushered in the Great Migration. Between World War I and the end of World War II, an estimated 3 million black people left the rural and urban South for cities of the North and West. Black migration to southern cities also increased, but most southern cities reported a decline in the percentage of blacks in the total population. Compared with the pre-World War I years, young men, roughly ages 21 to 44, dominated the migration stream. They came mostly from the Deep South states and entered the urban–industrial workforce, where young women found far fewer opportunities for employment.17

In both urban and rural areas, disfranchisement, mob violence, institutional segregation, and economic discrimination transformed the South into new sources of African American labor for the urban–industrial economy. As migration historian Isabel Wilkerson notes, African Americans “did not cross the turnstiles of customs at Ellis Island. They were already citizens. But they were not treated as such. Their every step was controlled by the meticulous laws of Jim Crow, a nineteenth century (p. 91) minstrel figure that would become shorthand for the violently enforced code of the southern caste system.”18 Simultaneously, the decline of European immigrants opened up new industrial opportunities in the urban North and West. In the decade and a half before World War I, over 12 million immigrants had entered the United States. Between 1914 and 1918, however, the number of immigrants arriving each year steadily dropped from 1 million to only 110,000. Another 100,000 European-born Americans returned to their countries of origin.19 At the same time, African Americans living in cities rose from under 30 percent before World War I to nearly 60 percent by the late 1940s. Midwestern and West Coast cities experienced the most dramatic black population growth. Whereas the number of blacks moving to New York and Philadelphia trebled during the 1910s and the 1920s, Chicago’s and Detroit’s black populations increased more than fivefold during the same period. By the end of World War II, the number of southern blacks moving to Los Angeles and San Francisco nearly matched the number moving to the leading cities of the urban Midwest.20

While a variety of national and global socioeconomic and political factors stimulated twentieth-century black population movement, African Americans also organized their own movement into urban–industrial America. They devised their own complex communications network and channeled their own journeys into cities. In addition to an expanding chain of family and friends, their network included railroad employees, particularly the expanding ranks of black porters on sleeping cars; porters gathered and dispensed valuable information on jobs and living conditions outside the rural South. Other dimensions of the black communications system included northern black weeklies like the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier; migration clubs that negotiated lower group rates for railroad tickets for prospective migrants; and the proliferation of national conventions among black churches, fraternal orders, and social clubs. Black women played a key role in the building and maintenance of these networks. They not only took the lead in helping to organize national black conventions but also initiated extensive letter-writing efforts to connect prospective migrants with relatives, friends, jobs, and housing in the industrial city. In a letter to a northern branch of the National Urban League, a woman wrote from South Carolina that she had “two grown sons” and wanted “to settle down somewhere north … wages are so cheap down here we can hardly live.” By gathering careful information on life at points of destination, southern African Americans expressed increasing optimism with the prospects of improving their condition through interregional movement. Accordingly, they often described the Great Migration in biblical terms as, “The Promised Land,” “Going to Canaan,” and “Flight from Egypt.” In letters back home, they reinforced these very positive perspectives on life in the urban North. As one migrant put, “Up here, a man can be a man.”21

Industrial job opportunities reinforced their optimism for a better life in the urban North. During World War I and again during the economic expansion of the mid-1920s, African American men, and to some extent women, gained increasing access to (p. 92) jobs in meatpacking, auto, steel, shipbuilding, and other mass production industries. Although African Americans entered jobs at the floor of the industrial economy, they earned nearly twice as much as they earned in southern agriculture and urban areas, where employment on farms and plantations averaged between $1 and $3 per 12-hour day. In Philadelphia, African Americans found their most significant employment opportunities with the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Midvale Steel Company, and the Sun Shipyards, on the city’s south side. The Pennsylvania Railroad hired over 1100 black maintenance-of-way men in 1916, while the Midvale Steel Company reported 4000 African American workers on its payroll in 1917. At the Sun Shipyards, black workers soon reached over 50 percent of the total work force. Other major Philadelphia firms employing black workers included the Atlantic Refinery, Franklin Sugar, Westinghouse, and Disston Saw.22

In Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, the U.S. Steel Homestead works, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company, and Carnegie Steel hired increasing numbers of black workers. African Americans rose from only about 3 percent of the steel industry workforce in 1910 to over 20 percent by the end of World War I.23 Some companies—Oliver Iron and Steel, Pittsburgh Forge and Iron, and A. M. Byers, among others—hired black workers for the first time. In Chicago, such manufacturing firms as Swift, Armour, Pullman, International Harvester, and others also added increasing numbers of blacks to their payroll. Concentrated mainly in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago, black workers in the nation’s meatpacking industry rose from less than 6000 in 1910 to nearly 30,000 in 1920. In Kansas City, one contemporary observer reported, “There is no other large employer of Negroes in Kansas City which treats colored workers with more consideration than does the Armour Packing Company.”24

Beginning with a smaller percentage of black workers in industrial jobs than Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and other northern cities before World War I, Detroit surged to the forefront of black industrial workers nationwide by the mid-1920s. As early as May 1917, the Packard Company employed 1100 African American workers, but the Ford Motor Company soon gained a reputation as the city’s and nation’s most progressive employer of black workers. Ford’s black work force rose from only 50 employees in 1916 to nearly 1700 by war’s end. Ford also offered blacks a broader range of production and supervisory opportunities than did other companies. A reporter for the Associated Negro Press later recalled, “Back in those days [1920s and early 1930s] Negro Ford workers almost established class distinctions here … the men began to feel themselves a little superior to workers in other plants … ‘I work for Henry Ford’; was a boastful expression.”25

Whereas black men experienced a dramatic reversal of their numbers from domestic service and general labor jobs to the industrial sector, black women experienced only modest increases in manufacturing employment. Nonetheless, during the labor shortages of World War I, black women employed in industrial firms increased by nearly 75 percent from an estimated 68,000 in 1910 to 105,000 in 1920. In Philadelphia, nearly 300 black women had entered the garment trades in 1910 as strikebreakers. World War I and a postwar strike in 1921 brought another 1000 black women into the city’s garment makers’ (p. 93) work force. In 1917, some 500 black women entered the garment industry of Chicago as strikebreakers. According to economists Sterling Spero and Abram Harris, “This strike was largely lost through the employment of colored labor and when it ended … Negro girls found permanent places in the trade.” In Chicago, between 1910 and 1920, black women classified as factory operatives increased from about 10 to 15 percent of all black women workers. In New York, the number of black apparel workers rose to an estimated 3000 in 1925 and to 6000 in 1927.26

What some historians call the Second Great Migration brought another 3 million African Americans from the South to the urban North and West after World War II. The percentage of all blacks living in cities rose from just over 50 percent during the 1940s to over 80 percent by the 1970s. Almost half of the African American population now lived in the urban North and West. Nearly 140,000 black people from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, and other Caribbean islands had moved to urban America during the inter-World War year, but their numbers would increase slowly until passage of a new immigration law in 1965.27

Postwar African American migrants moved primarily to large cities where black people had already established their own neighborhoods and networks of support. When Ruby Daniels moved from Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Chicago in 1946, she followed the lead of her aunt Ceatrice who had moved there during the war years. In 1957, when her sister passed away in Eustis, Florida, Inez Starling and her husband, George, brought her sister’s teenage daughter to Chicago to live with them. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster moved from Monroe, Louisiana, to Los Angeles during the 1950s; he soon vowed to return South only “to get as many of his loved ones from Monroe to move out to California” as possible. Monroe migrants to the Bay Area included the families of such luminaries as Huey P. Newton, later founder of the Black Panther Party, and future hall of fame Celtic professional basketball player Bill Russell. While major rail lines continued to bring black people to the nation’s large metropolitan areas, the rapid expansion of the federal highway system, automobile production, commercial bus lines, and moving companies supplemented the migration of blacks via rail.28

The rapid technological and economic transformation of southern agriculture reinforced the flow of black people out of the South in the years after World War II. Federal agricultural assistance programs, initiated during the New Deal years, strengthened the hand of southern segregationists and weakened the economic foundation of black life in the South. The U.S. Department of Agriculture paid landowners to withhold acreage from production, presumably to drive up the price of cotton, but such programs allowed landlords to greatly reduce the tenant work force. Consequently, sharecroppers lost their portion of agricultural subsidy payments and slipped down the tenure ladder into the category of hired “wage hands.” Mechanical cotton pickers, tractors, herbicides, and other technological and scientific innovations also reduced the demand for manual labor. Within the 6-year period between 1958 and 1964, the proportion of all Mississippi Delta cotton harvested by mechanical cotton pickers rose from 27 to 81 percent. As the mechanical cotton picker spread into 17 cotton-producing counties of Arkansas during the 1950s, the number of tenant farmers dropped from 21,000 to about 6500. Farm (p. 94) wage workers found it even more difficult to make a living than their sharecropping counterparts.29

Displaced black sharecroppers and low-wage farm hands moved into nearby southern cities and towns in rising numbers. From there, thousands made their way to the urban North and West. African Americans also migrated into cities from the southern Appalachian coalfields of Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama. The collapse of the bituminous coal industry, a significant employer of black workers in the Appalachian South, precipitated the increasing out migration of black workers and their families from the coal towns. Technological changes like the mechanical coal loader figured prominently in the reduction of demand for workers in the coal industry. In his recollections of life in the coal mines of West Virginia, the veteran miner Robert Armstead later described how coal-loading machines displaced increasing numbers of handloaders. “With giant, crablike arms, the coal-loading machine, or loader, scooped the coal up onto its belt-type surface. The belt tumbled it back out of the way, usually onto the bottom or into empty cars … Some timbermen, trackmen, and loaders kept their jobs, but the mining machines created massive layoffs. Every two or three months, three hundred or more men got laid off.” In West Virginia, for example, the number of black coal miners declined steeply from nearly 35,000 during the 1940s to only about 3000 in 1970.30

The relationship between technological change and black labor migration was by no means a simple process. In 1946, Harris P. Smith, an agricultural engineer at Texas A&M, observed the huge outmigration of black workers from the cotton belt and concluded, “Instead of the machines displacing labor, they were used to replace the labor that had left the farm.” Nate Shaw found it difficult to adapt to the tractor, but his sons embraced the new technology and stayed on the land longer than some other blacks who moved north.31 In West Virginia, Robert Armstead witnessed the shrinking coal mine labor force but later became an operator of the mechanical coal loading machine and stayed in the coal fields. As he put it, “I aspired that someday, if I worked long enough in the coal mines, I could attain one of those positions with a higher hourly rate. … Before long, one of the loading-machine operator positions opened up. I applied for it and got the job.”32 But most black coal miners and their families joined the second Great Migration of blacks to the urban North and West. In his memoir of a black coal mining family, retired social worker and special education teacher Otis Trotter underscored the bittersweet journey of his family from a West Virginia coal town to life in Newcomerstown, a small town in eastern Ohio just south of the Canton-Massillon area. “After saying our good byes to friends and neighbors, we all got in the cars [pulling U-Hauls] and headed up the hill and down the road towards a future in Ohio that we hoped would be brighter.”33

Despite proximity to the declining cotton, tobacco, rice, and coal fields of the South, southern cities attracted fewer rural-to-urban black migrants than their northern and western counterparts. Between 1940 and 1950, for example, the black population of Atlanta, New Orleans, Birmingham, and Memphis increased by no more than 10 to 22 percent, while that of northern cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia rose by (p. 95) 50 to 100 percent. Migration accounted for the bulk of black population growth outside the South, while natural increase made up over 95 percent of black population growth in southern cities. The upper South and border cities of Washington, DC, Baltimore, Louisville, and St. Louis experienced higher black population growth than Deep South cities, but natural increase rather than migration also accounted for the bulk of this expansion. In his recent study of black migration to Louisville, historian Luther Adams illuminates the unique dimensions of black population movement to this upper South city. Adams places the notion of “home” or what he describes as a powerful African American commitment to life in the South at the center of his analysis. In his view, while most southern black migrants might have moved to the urban North and West as acts of liberation and self-transformation, others moved to Louisville for similar reasons. Unlike most other southern states, Kentucky enfranchised black citizens following the Civil War, established fewer Jim Crow statutes, and for Louisville recorded fewer incidents of mob violence and lynching than elsewhere in the state and South.34

Post-World War II migrants later vividly recalled a broad range of motives for moving out of the South after World War II. Following interviews with more than twelve hundred migrants about their migration decision, Isabel Wilkerson noted, “It was not one thing; it was many things, some weighing more heavily in one migrant’s heart than another but all very likely figuring into the calculus of departure.” In interviews with Wilkerson and numerous other oral historians, African Americans accented profound dissatisfaction with the segregationist system in their decisions to move. In 1947, David Blakely left his home in Pensacola, Florida. He moved first to Manhattan and then to Pittsburgh in 1948. Similar to many migrants of the first wave of the Great Migration, Blakely later recalled, “I left [Pensacola] because I was tired of not being able to vote and not being treated like a human being.”35

In April 1945, the Silver Meteor, part of the East Coast Seaboard Airline Railroad system, took George Swanson Starling from his home in Eustis, Florida, to New York City. Starling departed his hometown following threats on his life. Under his leadership and a small cohort of other black labor activists, black orange grove workers had organized and demanded higher pay and better working conditions from grove owners. Company officials and law officers made it clear that Starling would be lynched if he remained in the area. On the Monday after Easter in 1953, the physician Robert Joseph Pershing Foster departed Monroe, Louisiana, for Los Angeles. Pershing Foster had turned down his brother’s plea to remain in Monroe. His brother, also a physician, wanted Robert to remain and help build a family medical practice serving Monroe’s sizable black community. Pershing Foster later recalled moving to Los Angeles because he did not want to practice medicine behind the cotton curtain. He “did not want to be paid with buttermilk or the side of a freshly killed hog and did not want to deliver babies in somebody’s kitchen.”36

Some blacks continued to leave the South, reminiscent of fugitives on the antebellum underground railroad. In 1963, Eddie Eason, recalled eluding the grip of a Mississippi Delta plantation owner. One day the “boss man” put a Winchester rifle to Eddie’s head for daring to go to a doctor for treatment of a serious injury on the job. “We were still in (p. 96) slavery, like,” he said. During the next 3 years after the incident over medical treatment, Eason quietly saved enough money to purchase bus tickets for himself, his sister, and her two children. As he recalled, “You didn’t talk about it or tell nobody … You had to sneak away.” In February 1958, Arrington High escaped from Mississippi via Alabama in a coffin that traveled 15 hours by train to Chicago. Five months earlier, authorities had confined the 44-year-old husband and father of four children to an insane asylum for challenging the system of white supremacy in his newspaper, the Eagle Eye.37

By the opening years of the twenty-first century, a variety of local, national, and global forces had set in motion several new trends in black migration history. First and perhaps most important, by the mid-1970s the Great Migration of the twentieth century had run its course. For the first time in the nation’s history, more blacks moved from the urban North and West to the South than vice versa. Before the 1970s, no more than about 15,000 blacks joined the counterstream of northern migration to the rural South. During the 1970s and 1980s, the number of blacks moving North to South rose to nearly 50,000 each year. Over the first half of the 1970s, an estimated 2.2 million people, blacks and whites, left the South, while another 4.1 million moved into the region from elsewhere. Nearly as many left and moved in during the second half of the 1970s. By the final decade of the twentieth century, the South claimed over 500,000 African Americans from the urban North. Northern black migration to the South included some 210,000 former residents who had left the region during the era of the Great Migration.38

Why did northern blacks move back South in rising numbers? In her pioneering study of the phenomenon, anthropologist Carol Stack aptly concluded, there were as many stories as there were migrants—“ailing grandparents, a dream of running a restaurant, a passion for the land, a midnight epiphany, rumors and lies, weariness, homesickness, missionary vision, community redemption, fate, romance, politics, sex, religion.” People often told Stack their stories in terms of “pushes and pulls, disequilibriums both personal and historical that perturbed the heart until the feet hit the road.” In Stack’s view, the resolve to return home was not “primarily an economic decision but rather a powerful blend of motives” as “bad times back home” could “pull as well as push” people located in a broad orbit of family connections and commitments.39

While northern blacks moved South for a complex combination of personal, cultural, political, and economic considerations, the exodus escalated as the material foundation of African American life slowly disappeared with the demise of the industrial economy in the urban Northeast and Midwest. During the 5 middle years of the 1980s, the industrial Northeast and Midwest lost nearly 10 million jobs through plant closings, technological innovations, or movement of major manufacturers to overseas locations. In Pittsburgh and other steel-producing centers of the nation, the heavy metals industry had nearly disappeared by the turn of the twentieth century. In rapid succession, U.S. Steel closed its great blast furnace and mill plants at Homestead, Duquesne, McKeesport, and Clairton, to name a few. The city of Pittsburgh’s black population declined from over 105,000 in 1970 to 94,000 during the 1990s. Nationwide, whereas nearly 33 percent of all workers found manufacturing jobs in 1960, that figure had plummeted to no more (p. 97) than 10 to 14 percent by 1990. Northern urban blacks bore the brunt of deindustrialization as their unemployment figures remained double those of whites and the proportion of blacks living in metropolitan poverty areas rose from nearly 33 percent in 1970 to about 50 percent by the early 1990s. At the same time, the southern and western Sunbelt emerged as new growth areas with expanding employment opportunities. Although characterized by jobs with substantially lower wages, the lack of union representation, and greater workplace inequities than those of the declining northern industrial sector, the southern economy appealed to a growing number of young workers suffering high rates of unemployment above the Mason-Dixon line.40

Not all reverse migrants took low-end jobs in the Sunbelt economy. Whereas the Great Migration included disproportionally large numbers of blacks with high school education or less, the late twentieth-century migration to the South included substantial numbers of young college-educated black professional and business people. In the spring of 1990, the Wall Street Journal carried a special story on the “reverse exodus” of middle-class blacks from ailing industrial centers in the Northeast and Midwest to booming Sunbelt cities like Atlanta, Houston, and San Antonio. Compared with the urban North, one bank executive moved to Atlanta, he said, because the city offered more opportunities to work in “revenue generating jobs” and influence “the bottom line” in corporate offices with higher ratios of blacks to whites. In Pittsburgh, Ralph Proctor, director of a major social service institution for urban youth on the city’s East Side, identified racial discrimination in the context of deindustrialization as a major reason that young people left the region: “There was nothing here for them so they left because of discrimination.”41 Many of the Great Migration era migrants had maintained ongoing contact with the South of their birth, but they also determined to transform the land of their birth upon return. When Eula and her husband, Al Grant, returned to Burdy’s Bend in 1979, she informed her parents that “in every stranger she’d met in New York she’d planted a bit of Burdy’s Bend, and now, back in the country, it was time to instill a touch of the wider world in the people here.” Within a 3-year period, Eula Grant had helped to spearhead the formation of a new tax-exempt nonprofit organization called Holding Hands. This organization expanded the range of social services available for black people in this rural area.42

Along with the conditions precipitating the massive movement of African Americans from North and West to South, new federal immigration policies also transformed the dynamics of late twentieth-century black population movements. In 1965, the Hart-Celler Immigration Act demolished the old ethnically and racially discriminatory quota system of immigration that favored selected northern and western European countries over the rest of the world. The new law opened the door for growing numbers of immigrants from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. By the turn of the twenty-first century, African immigrants had increased to over 640,000, making up about 7 percent of the total black population. The vast majority of Africans came from Nigeria, Guinea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sudan, Somalia, and Sierra Leone. At the same time, some 2 million blacks emigrated from former British, French, and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. As these groups obtained (p. 98) U.S. citizenship over time, they also took advantage of the nation’s family-sponsored immigration policy and reinforced the flow of new people of African descent into the United States.43

Patterns of African and Caribbean immigration into the United States exhibited certain similarities as well as profound differences. Both groups included a mix of voluntary migrants and refugees, but migrants from the former British colonies of Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, and others came voluntarily, while disproportionately larger numbers of blacks from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and El Salvador entered the country as refugees. Civil wars in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Sudan also precipitated an increase in refugees to the United States. Most black immigrants were able-bodied men and women ages 25 to 50, but Caribbean women outnumbered men 100:85, while African women outnumbered men 140:100. Moreover, whereas Caribbean blacks represented diverse local Creole languages as well as French, English, Spanish, and Dutch, African migrants brought experience with the tongues of European colonizers as well as their own indigenous ethnic and nationality group languages. These included, for example, the languages of the Igbos, Yorubas, and Hausas of Nigeria, and the Ewe, Fante, and Akan of Ghana.44

Partly because U.S. immigration law privileged the admission of well-educated professional immigrants over general laborers, the late twentieth and early twenty-first century immigration attracted more African people from middle-class and elite backgrounds than earlier immigration streams. As such, these immigrants, as historian Ira Berlin notes, “arrived with knowledge, money, and connections.” In his introduction to a revealing collection of essays on the African diaspora, Africanist Isidore Okpewho underscored the class dimension of the recent African migration to the United States. Before moving to the United States, Okpewho had taught at the University of Ibadan, where he and his wife started their family. He eventually moved his family to the United States, where he teaches on the faculty of a major northeastern university. Not only did his children gain access to an excellent education in the United States, but they soon embarked on their own professional careers.45

For their part, refugees not only entered the country with few material resources at their disposal but also often struggled to overcome more violent and disruptive events that had rendered them homeless in their own countries. Thousands of late twentieth-century Ethiopian, Igbo Nigerian, Somalian, Liberian, and Sudanese immigrants to the United States recall stories of suffering and despair that preceded their forced migration from their homelands. One of the most widely broadcast recent tales of forced migration involves the experiences of young male children, dubbed the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Following years of attacks on the southern region of Sudan, government forces drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and precipitated a mass march of some 20,000 young males from their homeland to a refugee camp in Kenya. Acik Ateng Nai, one of the survivors selected for asylum in the United States, later recalled his ordeal in the Sudan as well as his early encounter with life in America. After landing in the United States, Nai spent a period of time on the federal food stamp program, supplemented by support from a Catholic charity organization. He eventually studied for his (p. 99) GED and acquired a general labor job with a big box retailer as he prepared to take the next steps toward acquiring U.S. citizenship.46

The new immigration from Africa and the Caribbean posed fundamental issues for large metropolitan black communities. In her close study of West Indian migration to New York, anthropologist Nancy Foner concludes, “For West Indian New Yorkers of African descent, being black is the ‘master status’ that pervades and penetrates their lives. This was true in the past and continues to be true today.” In Foner’s view, New York’s Caribbean community suffered from the tendency of American whites to classify them as members of the existing African American community, giving little credence to their claims to cultural distinctiveness. African immigrants articulated a similar frustration with the prevailing white presumption of African identification with African Americans. When one African immigrant arrived in the United States from Togo via Europe, he soon remarked with some aggravation, “In Germany, everyone knew I was African. Here, nobody knows if I’m African or American.” Under these circumstances, some black Americans resented the effort of Caribbean and African blacks to accent their distinctiveness rather than identify with the culture, politics, and aspirations of African Americans. Following a public radio broadcast regarding the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation, historian Ira Berlin was taken aback by the response to his presentation by a group of Caribbean and African immigrants or children of immigrants—“Almost all had been born outside the United States—two in Haiti, one in Jamaica, one in Britain, and three others in Africa, two in Ghana, and one, I believe, in Somalia. Others may have been children of immigrants.”47

The group insisted that the saga of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and emancipation of enslaved black Americans was not their history. Although this group had embraced America as their country through immigration, naturalization, and even birth for some, their vision of their own history was at odds with that of most African Americans. For their part, African Americans sometimes reacted by mistreating the newcomers. As late as 2005, an article in the black New Amsterdam News noted that some of the city’s 4400 Africans had been “routinely targeted and singled out for discrimination and abuse” by Harlem’s black community. When a black woman killed an East African man in Seattle, Washington, in the summer of 2006, a group of African leaders declared, “These people [African Americans], they do not like us; that is why they kill us.”48

While such conflicts divided African Americans from both Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, the dynamics of racial discrimination within the U.S. social order called such internal conflicts into question. In February 1999, when four New York City police officers killed an unarmed Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in his apartment building, the African and African American community came together to discuss their common vulnerability in a continuing highly racialized and unequal American urban social order. The killing of Diallo, an educated member of the middle class in his home country, also underscored the leveling of class as well as ethnic and nationality distinctions in the U.S. racial system. As suggested by the experiences of Isidore Okpewho and Acik Ateng Nai, immigrant communities in the United States were divided by class and status as well as by nationality and ethnic backgrounds. But Diallo’s death challenged both (p. 100) class and ethnic boundaries among diverse people of African descent. Manthia Diawara, a New York University professor of African descent, highlighted the way Diallo’s death undercut certain fundamental assumptions about difference within the shifting late twentieth-century African American community:

“Just as my success story in America could have been his, the tragedy that had befallen him could have been mine, as a black man in America—albeit an African. Little do the Amadou Diallos of the world know that the black man in America bears the curse of Cain, and that in America they, too, are considered black men, not Fulanis, Mandigos, or Wolofs. They cut Amadou Diallo down like a black American, even though he belonged to the Fulani tribe in his native Guinea. There is a lesson here for all of us to learn.”49

Each era of massive black population movement disrupted established patterns of African American cultural, economic, and political life. Forced migration of Africans to the Americas not only permanently separated millions of Africans from their families and communities in the Old World, but also depopulated and transformed the West African homeland, making it a different place from the one that New World blacks departed. In varying degrees, similar processes of change marked the mass movement of blacks during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In each era of massive black population movement and social disruption, however, people of African descent forged bonds with each other and created new families and forms of community. These new forms of solidarity also established the foundation for the fight against slavery during the colonial and antebellum years and the struggle against Jim Crow during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The African American struggle for freedom and full citizenship rights culminated in the rise of the twentieth-century Modern Black Freedom Movement. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements demolished the system of Jim Crow and established the groundwork for the rise of a more inclusive multiracial nation, best symbolized by the election of Barack H. Obama as the first U.S. president of African descent.50

By the opening years of the twenty-first century, a variety of local, national, and global forces had set in motion several new trends in black migration history. Contemporary scholars are hard at work forging new research agendas to bring these trends and their broader implications to light.51 While existing research illuminates African American return migration to the small town and rural South, we know far less about late twentieth-century black migration (not all returnees) to large metropolitan regions of the South, including the major Sunbelt cities. Scholars are giving increasing attention to the diverse waves of post Hart-Celler immigration of Caribbean and African immigrants into the United States, but work on the second generation remains underdeveloped. There were significant contextual and substantive differences between the two periods. The first generation entered the country in the wake of the Modern Black Freedom Movement and the expanding and more liberal U.S. immigration policy; the second generation confronted a retrenchment of Civil Rights era initiatives and, more (p. 101) recently, the deleterious impact of 9/11 and the advent of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security measures. In addition to numerous case studies covering a wide-range of groups at different points in time, we also need new comparative research, with varied foci. Such comparative scholarship might examine the same group for different cities; multiple groups within the same city; or particular dimensions of the migration experience—work, residence, community-building, political engagement—across two or more generations. Among other possible subjects, research along these distinct but overlapping topics will broaden and deepen our understanding of black migration in historical perspective.


Berlin, Ira. Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York: Free Press, 1974).Find this resource:

Berlin, Ira. The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (New York: Viking, 2010).Find this resource:

Boehm, Lisa Krissoff. Making a Way Out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2009).Find this resource:

(p. 106) Byrd, Alexander X. Captive and Voyagers: Black Migrants Across the Eighteenth Century British Atlantic World (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).Find this resource:

Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth. Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910–1940 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994).Find this resource:

Foner, Nancy, ed., Islands in the City: West Indian Migration to New York (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).Find this resource:

Foner, Nancy and George M. Fredrickson, ed., Not Just Black and White: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004).Find this resource:

Gregory, James N. The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).Find this resource:

Harris, Leslie M. In the Shadow of the Plantation: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).Find this resource:

Horton, James Oliver and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).Find this resource:

Johnson, David M. and Rex R. Campbell, Black Migration in America: A Social Demographic History (Durham: Duke University Press, 1981).Find this resource:

Nash, Gary B. Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community 1720–1840 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).Find this resource:

Okpewho, Isidore and Nkiru Nzegwu, eds., The New African Diaspora (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).Find this resource:

Rediker, Marcus. The Slave Ship: A Human History (New York: Viking, Penguin Group [USA] Inc., 2007).Find this resource:

Rutkoff. Peter M. and William Scott, Fly Away: The Great African American Cultural Migrations (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2010).Find this resource:

Spickard, Paul. Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity (New York: Routledge, 2007).Find this resource:

Stack, Carol. Call to Home: African Americans Reclaim the Rural South (New York: Basic Books, 1996).Find this resource:

Tadman, Michael. Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989).Find this resource:

Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 1998, 2008).Find this resource:

Trotter, Joe William, Jr. ed., The Great Migration in Historical Perspective: New Dimensions of Race, Class, and Gender (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991).Find this resource:

Watkins-Owens, Irma. Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900–1930 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).Find this resource:

Wilkerson, Isabelle. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (New York: Random House, 2010).Find this resource:

Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina From 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974)Find this resource:

Woodson, Carter G. A Century of Negro Migration (1918; reprinted New York: Russell and Russell, 1969).Find this resource:


(1.) Ira Berlin, The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (New York: Viking, 2010); Peter M. Rutkoff and William Scott, Fly Away: The Great African American Cultural Migrations (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2010); James N. Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); David M. Johnson and Rex R. Campbell, Black Migration in America: A Social Demographic History (Durham: Duke University Press, 1981).

(2.) William D. Phillips, Jr., Slavery from Roman Times to the Early Transatlantic Trade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), p. 87; Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch (translated from French by Mary Baker), The History of African Cities South of the Sahara: From the Origins to Colonization (Princeton, NJ: Marcus Weiner Publishers, 2008), pp. 100–126.

(3.) John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 1998, 2008), pp. 43–71; Alexander X. Byrd, Captive and Voyagers: Black Migrants Across the Eighteenth Century British Atlantic World (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), pp. 2–3, 14–15; Marcus Rediker, The Slave Ship: A Human History (New York: Viking, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007), pp. 5, 115, 347.

(4.) Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 1–28; Michael L. Coniff and Thomas J. Davis, Africans in the Americas: A History of the Black Diaspora (New York: St. Martins Press, 1994), pp. 29–30, 46–69; David Eltis, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 29–84; A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, the Colonial Period (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 26–47, 61–68; Horton and Horton, In Hope of Liberty, pp. 10–11; Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton and Company, 1975), pp. 94–95, 295–315.

(5.) Leslie M. Harris, In the Shadow of the Plantation: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 4–7, 10; Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community 1720–1840 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 11–12,14–15; Lawrence H. Larsen, The Urban South: A History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1990), p. 9; Betty Wood, Slavery in Colonial Georgia, 1730–1775 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984) pp. 61–63, 75, 83–85, 220, n. 21; Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina From 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974), pp. 142–166.

(6.) Philip S. Foner and Ronald L. Lewis, ed., The Black Worker to 1869, Volume 1 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978), p. 9.

(7.) Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619–1877 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), pp. 96–139; James Oakes, Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), pp. 22–24, 143–144; Harold D. Woodman, Slavery and the Southern Economy: Sources and Readings (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966), 1–18, 66–94.

(8.) Michael Tadman, Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), pp. 3–25.

(9.) “Narrative of the Life of Henry Bibb: An American Slave,” in Gilbert Osofsky, ed., Puttin’ On Old Massa (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1969), pp. 112–113.

(11.) Tadman, Speculators and Slaves, pp. 2–25, quotes, 73, 77; Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), pp. 22–27, 175.

(12.) Allan Kulikoff, “Uprooted Peoples: Black Migrants in the Age of the American Revolution, 1790–1820,” in Berlin and Hoffman, ed., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution, p. 146; Sylviane Anna Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Tadman, Speculators and Slaves:, pp. 2–25; Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, pp. 20–21, 175; Nathalie Dessens, From Saint—Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2007), pp. 11–45.

(13.) Ira Berlin, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York: Free Press, 1974), pp. 29–35, 46–47, 136–137, 176–178; Leon Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790–1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), pp. 7–11; Leonard P. Curry, The Free Black in Urban America, 1800–1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 1–14, 245–257; Claudia D. Goldin, Urban Slavery in the American South, 1820–1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 12, 51–55; Lawrence H. Larsen, The Urban South: A History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1990), pp. 24–25; Richard Wade, Slavery in Cities: The South, 1820–1860 (New York: Oxford, 1964), pp. 327–328; Joe William Trotter, Jr., River Jordan: African Americans Urban Life in the Ohio Valley (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), pp. 24–51.

(14.) Kate Masur, An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), pp. 75–76; Herbert G. Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750–1925 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976), pp. 364–365; Leon F. Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), p. 232.

(15.) Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910–1940 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), pp. 1–7. This pattern of domestic service for black women urbanites would only slowly breakdown in the years after World War II, see Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2009).

(16.) See Joe William Trotter, Jr., ed., The Great Migration in Historical Perspective: New Dimensions of Race, Class, and Gender (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 112–113 and 8–9; Carter G. Woodson, A Century of Negro Migration (1918; reprt. New York: Russell and Russell, 1969), pp. 2–7.

(18.) Isabelle Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (New York: Random House, 2010), pp. 9–10.

(21.) James R. Grossman, Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 187–199; Allan Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890–1920 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 151–152d; Peter Gottlieb, Making Their Own Way: Southern Blacks’ Migration to Pittsburgh, 1916–30 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), pp. 90–93; Joe William Trotter, Jr., The African American Experience (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), p. 385.

(22.) Walter Licht, Getting Work: Philadelphia, 1840–1950 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 46–47; Theordore Kornwiebel, Jr., Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photo Journey (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), pp. 52–53; Philip Scranton and Walter Licht, Work Sights: Industrial Philadelphia, 1890–1950 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press 1986), pp. 203–204, 244–246; Lester Rubin, The Negro in the Shipbuilding Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, Report No. 17, 1970), p. 46.

(23.) Dennis C. Dickerson, Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875–1980 (New York: State University of New York Press, 1986), pp. 21–22, p. 45; Gottlieb, Making Their Own Way, pp. 90–93; John Hinshaw, Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth Century Pittsburgh (Albany: State University Press of New York, 2002), pp. 35–38; Joe William Trotter, Jr., “Reflections on the Great Migration to Western Pennsylvania,” Pittsburgh History (Winter 1995/96), pp. 153–158.

(24.) Roger Horowitz, “Negro and White, United and Fight!”: A Social History of Industrial Unionism in Meatpacking, 1930–80 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), pp. 87–88; Walter A. Fogel, The Negro in the Meat Industry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, Report No.12, 1970), pp. 46–47; Rick Halpern, Down on the Killing Floor: Black and White Workers in Chicago’s Packinghouses, 1904–54 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), pp. 47–48; Rick Halpern and R. Horowitz, Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999), pp. 3–10; Grossman, Land of Hope, pp. 187–199; Spear, Black Chicago, pp. 151–152.

(25.) Richard Walter Thomas, Life for Us Is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), pp. 29–30; August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 15–16; Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar Detroit (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), pp. 78–81.

(26.) Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Basic Books, 1985), pp. 166–180; Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, “Negro Women in Our Economic Life,” Opportunity 8 (July 1930), pp. 201–203, cited in Bevely Guy-Sheftal, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New York: New Press, 1995), pp. 97–98, online version, consulted January 27, 2011; Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape, pp. 74, 200–201; Phillips, AlabamaNorth, pp. 72, 75–76; Spear, Black Chicago, pp. 151–158; Elaine G. Wrong, The Negro in the Apparel Industry, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Report. No. 31), pp. 31–32.

(27.) Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, pp. 14–17, 32, 143–146; George A. Davis and Fred O. Donaldson, Blacks in the United States: A Geographic Perspective (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975), p. 49; Berlin, The Making of African America, pp. 155–156; Johnson and Campbell, Black Migration in America, pp. 106, 115–117, 127–132. 155–162; Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, pp. 217–218; Irma Watkins-Owens, Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900–1930 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), pp. 11–29; Nancy Foner, ed., Islands in the City: West Indian Migration to New York (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 3–10.

(28.) Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, pp. 14–17, 32, 143–146; Davis and Donaldson, Blacks in the United States, p. 49; Berlin, The Making of African America, pp. 155–156; Johnson and Campbell, Black Migration in America, pp. 106, 115–117, 127–132, 143–146, 155–162; Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, pp. 217–218, 356–358, 367, 441–444; Watkins-Owens, Blood Relations, pp. 11–29; Foner, ed., Islands in the City, pp. 3–10; Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Pantheon Books, Div. of Random House, 1962), pp. 186–187; Nicholas Lemaan, The Promised Land: The Great Migration and How it Changed America (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), pp. 52–53.

(29.) Raymond Wolters, Negroes and the Great Depression: The Problems of Economic Recovery (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Corporation, 1970), pp. 58–60; Johnson and Campbell, Black Migration in America, pp. 98–99, 140–142; Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, p. 33; Theodore Rosengarten, All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), p. 517.

(30.) Robert Armstead, as told to S. L. Gardner, Black Days, Black Dust: The Memoirs of an African American Coal Miner (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2002), pp. 64–65; Ronald Lewis, Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780–1980 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1987), pp. 167–193; Keith Dix, What’s a Coal Miner to Do?: The Mechanization of Coal Mining (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988).

(32.) Armstead, as told to Gardner, Black Days, Black Dust, pp. 98–99.

(33.) Otis Trotter, From Vallscreek to Highland Creek: A Memoir of Medicine, Family Struggle and Race (ms. in author’s possession, 2010), p. 32.

(34.) Karl E. Taeuber and Alma F. Taeuber, Negroes in Cities: Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Change (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1965), p. 119; Luther Adams, Way Up North in Louisville: African American Migration in the Urban South, 1930–1970 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), pp. 38–40.

(35.) Wilkerson, Warmth of Other Suns, pp. 534–535; Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day, Race and Renaissance: Åfrican Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), p. 46.

(36.) Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, pp. 172–173, 186–189, 192.

(37.) Ibid., pp. 220–221, 351–356.

(39.) Carol Stack, Call to Home: African Americans Reclaim the Rural South (New York: Basic Books, 1996), pp. xii–xiv, 6–8; Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, pp. 321–322.

(40.) Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day, Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh Since World War II (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), pp. 141–146; James S. Hirsch and Suzanne Alexander, “Reverse Exodus: Middle Class Blacks Quit Northern Cities and Settle in the South,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 1990; Trotter, The African American Experience, pp. 604–608.

(41.) Trotter and Day, Race and Renaissance, pp. 141–146; Hirsch and Alexander, “Reverse Exodus: Middle Class Blacks Quit Northern Cities and Settle in the South,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 1990; Trotter, The African American Experience, pp. 604–608.

(42.) Stack, Call to Home, pp. xii–xiv, 6–8, 140–141; Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, pp. 321–322.

(43.) Paul Spickard, Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 382–385; Berlin, The Making of African America, pp. 207–208; Nancy Foner and George M. Fredrickson, ed., Not Just Black and White: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004), pp. 1–19; Dennis Wepman, American Experience: Immigration (2002; reprt. New York: Facts on File, 2008), pp. 308–317, 336–351.

(45.) Isidore Okpewho and Nkiru Nzegwu, ed., The New African Diaspora (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), pp. 25–26; Spickard, Almost All Aliens, pp. 382–384; Berlin, The Making of African America, pp. 210–211.

(46.) Spickard, Almost All Aliens, pp. 382–384.

(48.) Berlin, The Making of African America, pp. 1–2, 222–223.

(49.) Spickard, Almost All Aliens, pp. 385–386.

(50.) Peniel Joseph, Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama (New York: Basic Civitas Books, Perseus Books Group, 2010).

(51.) Foner, Islands in the City, pp. 16–20; Amadu Jacky Kaba, “Africa’s Migration Brain Drain: Factors Contributing to the Mass Emigration of Africa’s Elite to the West,” in Okpewho and Nzegwu, ed., The New African Diaspora, 109–123; Foner and Fredrickson, ed., Not Just Black and White, pp. 1–19; Stack, Call to Home, pp. xii–xix, 6–8; Gregory, The Southern Diaspora, pp. 1–41.