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March 11 , 2011

The Other Great Migration

The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941


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.
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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.
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