Many black Southerners headed North in the early twentieth century in search of a better life. Most didn’t find it. Now, many are coming home. The Christian Science Monitor recently made this trend a cover story.
In the early twentieth century, black Americans constituted less than five percent of the total population of every Northern State. This was not by accident. As Leon Litwack has illustrated in his seminal work North of Slavery, the North was not simply cool to large numbers of incoming black Americans, it was hostile. Major race riots occurred with frequency in Northern States well into the middle of the twentieth century, and the Northern policy in regard to race was usually containment, i.e. keep black Americans in the South. When this broke down, black Americans in Northern cities faced more violence and persecution. The most segregated cities in America today are in the North.
It seems the stereotypes that still haunt the South no longer apply, and perhaps the traditional hearth and home for large numbers of black Americans are more promising than crime and poverty of Northern cities. Who would want to live in Detroit or Chicago?