Home: The Great Migration, as Told By Millennials

TroyDubois

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History. Opportunity. Community. Legacy.

Sandwiched in between the Industrial Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement, the Great Migration stands as one of the most impactful periods of American history.

It was a time defined by choice, and later — change. It saw the willful and prideful — if not spiteful — displacement of almost 10 million Black people from towns in the South to cities all over the West, Midwest, and Northeast.

For some, it was jobs. Others followed the lead of their spouse. Some people literally fled the South for their lives and some just wanted a little space. Whether you were in the early, middle, or late stages of the movement, you were in search of one thing: FREEDOM.

From Moses’ exodus to the English Revolution, history has shown us what happens when people finally get fed up. They leave. Well, this situation was no different. Slavery was over, sure, but the suffocating poverty, segregation, and turmoil that still plagued the South offered little hope that things would ever truly change. This ripened them for action; something had to give.

And it showed. It showed in the crowded colored sections of trains headed from places like Savannah, GA and Tallahassee, FL up to DC, Philly, and NYC. It floated north following the stream of the Mississippi River taking Delta-natives through St. Louis and Indianapolis all the way up to Chicago and Detroit. We watched folks leave Texas and Louisiana to travel I-10 westbound to live and die in LA (and Oakland too!).

From 1910–1960 many of our families simply made up their mind. They sensed that it was time to go, and they didn’t turn back. They, too, deserved a piece of the pie and everything else that was baked into the American Dream.

And for better or worse, they found it.

They took an infant history barely known and forged opportunities to grow and share it with their community. And in doing so, created a legacy as rich as the fertile soil from which they fled.

History. Opportunity. Community. Legacy.

Their actions afforded them the ever-elusive freedom they’d thirsted for. But with that freedom came consequences. Recessions, gang violence, job shortages, harsh weather, deadly riots, discriminatory land covenants, and even more segregation awaited them in their new cities, but this time their presence would be on their terms; and that in itself was a step forward.

Music, cuisine, fashion and the arts alike; we have made it in America. Just like baseball and apple pie, we, too, are some of this country’s proudest products.

There is a reason people in Harlem enjoy Sylvia’s soul food or why my Chicago homies all come from the Southside. It’s no secret why Motown became the game-changing Black music hit factory it was, paving the way for LA’s G-Funk and other genres.

Whether they stayed in the South or moved away, these are our true American heroes. And with that distinction comes the only culture most of us know.

They each played a role in patching together the quilt that is today’s Black America. Sewn with patches from the Harlem Renaissance, Great Depression, and both World Wars, it is still being stitched today with dreams of finding warmth in all the cold, cold places that never truly welcomed us.

Inspired in large part by Isabel Wilkerson’s seminal work, The Warmth of Other Suns, my aim is to highlight at least some of the patches and stitches woven into this beautiful quilt we’re all wrapped in. I hope you enjoy.

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My thoughts from the worlds of Music, History, Poetry, and Culture. For lack of a wetter bird, I can show you better than I can tell you.

Atlanta, GA
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