The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

Synopsis

The twentieth century has seen two great waves of African American migration from rural areas into the city, changing not only the country's demographics but also black culture. In her thorough study of migration to Houston, Bernadette Pruitt portrays the move from rural to urban homes in Jim Crow Houston as a form of black activism and resistance to racism.

Between 1900 and 1950 nearly fifty thousand blacks left their rural communities and small towns in Texas and Louisiana for Houston. Jim Crow proscription, disfranchisement, acts of violence and brutality, and rural poverty pushed them from their homes; the lure of social advancement and prosperity based on urban-industrial development drew them. Houston's close proximity to basic minerals, innovations in transportation, increased trade, augmented economic revenue, and industrial development prompted white families, commercial businesses, and industries near the Houston Ship Channel to recruit blacks and other immigrants to the city as domestic laborers and wage earners.

Using census data, manuscript collections, government records, and oral history interviews, Pruitt details who the migrants were, why they embarked on their journeys to Houston, the migration networks on which they relied, the jobs they held, the neighborhoods into which they settled, the culture and institutions they transplanted into the city, and the communities and people they transformed in Houston.

Excerpt

For sixteen years the Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life has featured books that present readers with a composite of views pertaining to East Texas and the surrounding regions, revealing the complexities inherent in the history, culture, and people of the area. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to include as the latest volume in the series Bernadette Pruitt’s exceptional The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, Texas, 1900–1941. In The Other Great Migration Pruitt deftly combines the diligent research of scholarship with a passion and sensitivity that allows the groups of individuals constituting the core of this book to retain the dignity of autonomous identities instead of becoming reduced to cold statistics and data points. Indeed, Pruitt’s keen eye for detail and her descriptive acumen provide contemporary readers with the opportunity to understand factually and emotionally the struggles and triumphs of African Americans who uprooted themselves and their families from, as Pruitt states, “rural communities for small towns, industrialized rural areas, and medium-sized cities throughout the South, including places like Houston that occasionally, over time, mushroomed into major metropolitan centers.”

Community serves as an underlying theme throughout The Other Great Migration, a constant presence in the book that reminds twentyfirst-century readers that individuals band together to exert their influence on their environment by forging and strengthening common bonds. As Pruitt observes, social clubs, the church, and other organizations all provided migrants a distinct sense of common purpose and belonging, all the more important when these women, men and children faced institutional discrimination, poverty and other hardships in the Jim Crow south. Pruitt . . .

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