Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Great Black Return Migration

A century ago the Great Migration of African Americans out of the rural South to the northern cities began. They left to escape caste oppression, racism, lynching, and massive economic discrimination. Fifty years later, half of African Americans lived outside the South. Moreover, black Americans had changed from overwhelmingly rural peasants to overwhelmingly urban proletariat.

Now, fifty years further on, there is a significant move of African Americans back to the South. This great migration, though, is led by the middle class and professional class. They are heading to Sunbelt cities, not the "black belt" farm country their great grandparents left. Georgia has displaced New York as the state with the most African Americans. Atlanta has displaced Chicago as the city with the second most African Americans, after New York City.

I take it as a great thing, a measure of the huge progress that the United States has made in overcoming our original sin - anti-black racism. Fifty years ago, the American South was the last place black Americans would want to move to. Today, the South is as appealing to black Americans as it is to everyone else - which is quite a bit.


Freda said...

Any info on migration back to Africa by African Americans?

Gruntled said...

By many-generation African-Americans, there is practically no migration to Africa. There was a tiny trickle of the politically disaffected in the 1960s - most of whom quickly discovered they were much more American than African.

There is now a significant migration of Africans to the U.S. Most of them are young men looking for economic opportunity, especially through education. This kind of migrant is likely to return to their country of origin, though more will stay here than had planned to. I have no figures of return migration of recent African immigrants. The numbers, in any case, are not large.