Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coming Home: Or, Cultural Change in the South

Atlanta-based photographer Erik S. Lesser's image of New York real estate agent Danitta Ross looking at her new home in Atlanta illustrates an intriguing story in today's New York Times about African-Americans who are moving back to the South.

The Times describes this phenomenon as a major reversal of the Great Migration, during which millions of Southern African-Americans moved to cities of the North seeking economic opportunity and freedom from the oppression of post-Civil War Jim Crow laws and Southern apartheid.

Now, however,things seem to be reversed. The Times quotes Spencer Crew, a history professor at George Mason University who was the curator of a prominent exhibit on the Great Migration at the Smithsonian Institution, to the effect that "blacks see more opportunities in the South."

The South now represents the potential for achievement for black New Yorkers in a way it had not before, Professor Crew 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.”

All I can say is, welcome home. Hold us accountable. Help us live up to what the South can be.

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