The Great Migration of Black Americans from the US South: A Guide and Interpretation
The Great Migration from the US South is a prominent theme in economic history research not only because it was a prime example of large scale internal migration, but also because it had far-reaching ramifications for American economic, social, and political change. This article offers a concise review of the literature focused on questions of timing, selection, and migrants’ outcomes, and then offers a more speculative interpretation of how the Great Migration fostered the advancement of Civil Rights. It concludes by pointing out areas where further exploration would be valuable.
I appreciate valuable suggestions on earlier drafts from Jeremy Atack, Brian Beach, Leah Boustan, Carola Frydman, Nicholas Holtkamp, Robert A. Margo, Marianne Wanamaker, Ariell Zimran, and three anonymous referees. Some of the more speculative ideas expressed here originated in an invited address at Northwestern University in May 2019, where attendees asked insightful questions prompting further thought. I gratefully acknowledge that most of the text was written while I was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado-Boulder in Fall 2019. The NSF supported some of my earlier work on the Great Migration with Wanamaker (SES 1156085 and 1156057). All errors and omissions are my fault, and all opinions are my own. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
William J. Collins, 2020. "The Great Migration of Black Americans from the US South: A guide and interpretation," Explorations in Economic History, . citation courtesy of