Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

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

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

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

Article excerpt

The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941. By Bernadette Pruitt. Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2013. Pp. [xxiv], 453. $40.00, ISBN 978-1-60344-948-9.)

Bernadette Pruitt provides a very well-researched, well-written, and well-analyzed account of black migration to Houston, Texas, from rural areas between 1900 and 1941. She personalizes the experiences by giving accounts of individuals and families, and she shows how these stories relate to later advancements for civil rights. Her nuanced study also puts the spotlight on Houston, an underrecognized city in the field of southern studies.

Pruitt examines four waves of migration and deftly connects them to larger developments in U.S. history: the 1900s through early 1910s, when new industries attracted African Americans to Houston; the World War I years, when wartime economic needs led to new opportunities; the post-- World War I era through 1930, when African Americans saw the city as a place for improved work and educational opportunities; and the 1930s, when African Americans traveled between the city and country to find employment during this time of economic depression. In fact, her study not only makes a valuable contribution to research but also provides numerous case studies that could be used for teaching these periods.

Drawing from oral histories (including her own family's story), newspapers, government documents, photographs, and other sources, she relates the experiences of African Americans to well-known aspects of southern history such as Jim Crow segregation, but she also shows the uniqueness of Houston by, for instance, mentioning how a motley assortment of migrants, including those from Mexico, tie into the story. She is to be commended as well for incorporating cultural history into her account, given that scholars of the black freedom struggle, with myself as no exception, too often underestimate its significance. She discusses how the Harlem Renaissance extended to Houston by examining jazz musicians and artists who hailed from the Bayou City. …

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