Monday, March 14, 2011

Reversing the Great Migration

From Ta-Nehisi Coates, an interesting reflection on why some African Americans move back to the South, particularly Atlanta, in a kind of reverse of the Great Migration:

The fact is that, in Atlanta, you can live in a neighborhood with a sprawling lawn, a two-car garage, four bathrooms, and see nothing but other black people around you. Moreover, you can enjoy a lifestyle—a range of food, a way of speaking, a particular bearing—which many of us experienced as children going South in the summer, and now think back on wistfully. And many of us with no such direct memories, lived around people who told such stories, and thus have shared in the collective memory.

The point here is that it's important, not simply to consider the number of people returning, but their thinking as they return. African-Americans moving South are returning to the place where much of their collective identity was formed. They're often returning to places where they still have kinship ties, or where large swaths of people share in their culture. This is different, and specific to black people. "The South" means something to Northern African-Americans with Southern roots (which is to say a lot of us) that it just doesn't mean for Northern whites. The black folks who return there are not simply returning for a good job, they are, in large measure, returning to something ancestral....

1 comment:

Marsha said...

I remember striking up a conversation with a young black man on a bus in Atlanta about thirty years ago. He had moved there because he saw the city as a place like no other in America where an African-American could thrive. I thought of him recently when I heard someone on the radio say that Harlem was no longer the center of African-American culture, Atlanta is.