We Need a Second Great MigrationBreaking News
tags: African American history, voting rights, Great Migration
A year ago this week, I packed some bags and left New York City for Atlanta.
I’d lived in New York for 26 years. The city made me feel awake and alive — buildings tickling the sky, trains snaking underfoot. There was a seductive muscularity to the city, a feeling of riding the razor between your destiny and your demise.
I had become a New Yorker, a Brooklyn boy. There I had raised my children. There I planned to live out my days.
But the exquisite fierceness of the city, its blur of ambition and ingenuity, didn’t hide the fact that many of my fellow Black New Yorkers were locked in perpetual oppression — geographically, economically and politically isolated. All around the North, Black power, if it existed, was mostly municipal, or confined to regional representation. Black people were not serving as the dominant force in electing governors or senators or securing Electoral College votes.
Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, calls migrants of the Great Migration “refugees and exiles of terror.” By extension, many Black communities in Northern cities, abandoned by the Black elite and spurned by white progressives, have become, functionally, permanent refugee camps.
I had an idea to change that. An idea about Black self-determination. Simply put, my proposition was this: that Black people reverse the Great Migration — the mass migration of millions of African-Americans largely from the rural South to cities primarily in the North and West that spanned from 1916 to 1970. That they return to the states where they had been at or near the majority after the Civil War, and to the states where Black people currently constitute large percentages of the population. In effect, Black people could colonize the states they would have controlled if they had not fled them.
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