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Third Great Migration Might be in Progress

  • Ted Landphair

The population of the 'Hub' area of the Bronx, New York, grew by 600 percent between 1900 and 1930, due in large part to a massive influx of African-Americans from the South.

The population of the 'Hub' area of the Bronx, New York, grew by 600 percent between 1900 and 1930, due in large part to a massive influx of African-Americans from the South.

African-Americans return to their Southern roots

In the early 20th Century, more than two million African-Americans left their homes and small farms in the South and moved to northern industrial cities to escape overt racism and search for better work and happier lives.

One-half of the large African-American population left Beaufort County, South Carolina, for example, and headed north.

The massive exodus came to be called "The Great Migration," and a second one followed in the years after World War II.

This is the work life that millions of southern blacks left behind when they boarded northbound buses and trains during the Great Migration.

This is the work life that millions of southern blacks left behind when they boarded northbound buses and trains during the Great Migration.

By 1970, when census-takers found that 80 percent of African-Americans lived in big cities, black America had become an overwhelmingly urban population.

Now there's a massive reverse migration of blacks back to what the USA Today newspaper calls "their Southern roots." Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, Florida’s African-American population grew by 587,000, Georgia’s by 579,000, and North Carolina’s by 297,000.

“It’s all about quality of life,” Mike Morton told USA Today. The retired corrections officer, left New York City for the small town of Palm Coast, Florida. “When I visit New York now, it’s culture shock. I don’t hear car horns down here. As soon as you get to New York, you’re hearing thousands of them.”

The 2010 U.S. Census found that 57 percent of American blacks now live in southern states. That’s the highest percentage in half a century.

By World War II, when this photo was taken, blacks and whites were accustomed to working side by side in northern factories.

By World War II, when this photo was taken, blacks and whites were accustomed to working side by side in northern factories.

Some African-Americans tell interviewers that they moved back - or to the South for the first time - for warmer weather, to distance themselves from high urban crime, to reunite with southern relatives or to take advantage of lower home prices and taxes.

But others say they regret the move. Too many retirees about, they say. Not enough job opportunities, public transportation, or cultural attractions that appeal to them.

The next decennial census in 2020 should tell us whether the influx of African-Americans into the South will be large enough to be considered a third Great Migration.

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