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.
BERNADETTE PRUITT is an associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. With a PhD from the University of Houston, she is a former recipient of the Mary M. Hughes and Fred White Jr. Research Fellowships in Texas History from the Texas State Historical Association.
What Readers Are Saying:
“The Other Great Migration is path-breaking! Eloquent and meticulously researched, this invaluable study brings to life a long neglected theme in the historical literature: the hopes, dreams, and ambitions of African American migrants who sought economic opportunity and greater social freedom in southern cities. Based on a wide variety of primary sources, this poignant and sweeping narrative of migrants’ foundational efforts to sustain their families, build community, and secure racial justice not only extends and deepens our understanding of the First Great Migration, it significantly buttresses the case for a longer view of the civil rights movement.”—Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, author, Abiding Courage: African American Migrant Women in the East Bay Community
“Bernadette Pruitt’s The Other Great Migration is path-breaking, directing historical attention to Houston, Texas, one of the most important, yet understudied, cities in the Jim Crow South. Heavenly and hellish, Houston attracted more than 32,000 African American migrants who transformed the city politically, socially, economically, and culturally while struggling to attain racial autonomy and human justice. The Other Great Migration signals the importance of African American migration within the South, a topic which heretofore has been virtually ignored by historians but is vital to understanding African American history and the urban South today. The Other Great Migration writes a new chapter in the history of the Great Migration. Impressively documented and wide-ranging in scope, Pruitt’s work on African American migration in Houston heralds a new trend in Southern, African American, and urban history.”—Luther J. Adams, author, Way Up North in Louisville: African American Migration in the Urban South
“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. Her nuanced study also puts the spotlight on Houston, an under recognized city in the field of southern studies. She is to be commended as well for incorporating cultural history into her account. One of the most impressive aspects of The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941is Pruitt’s use of case studies of migrants in order to better reveal the process and impact of rural to urban migration that occurred throughout the South. Pruitt is to be highly commended for this rigorously researched and very fine study. Her work is a wonderful contribution to the fields of southern studies, African American studies, and history in general.”—The Journal of Southern History