When the Great Migration Met the Black Diaspora

Rescheduled from May 23, this event is now taking place on August 8.

As countless writers and scholars have chronicled, black migration transformed the culture, politics, and social life of the United States in the mid-twentieth century, when the sons and daughters of Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and North Carolina set off for new homes in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Yet this grand epic of migration and urbanization was not solely a domestic story. From the First World War through the height of the civil rights movement, black Southerners were on the move—but so, too, were their counterparts in the other corners of the black diaspora. During this same period, the colonies and emergent nations of the Caribbean and Africa sent their own people out by the tens of thousands, destined for distant metropoles, but also more modest locales.

What then does the Great Migration look like in diasporic perspective? What happens when a family from Jamaica moves next door to migrants from South Carolina on a brownstone block on Brooklyn? How does blackness get defined by Trinidadians and Nigerians in 1960s London? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like? In other words—in the age of civil rights, Black Power, and decolonization—what happened when the Great Migration met the black diaspora?

This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


About the Speaker:

Joshua Guild specializes in twentieth-century African American social and cultural history, urban history, and the making of the modern African diaspora, with particular interests in migration, black internationalism, black popular music, and the black radical tradition. A graduate of Wesleyan University, where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, he received his PhD in History and African American Studies from Yale. His research has been supported by fellowships and awards from a number of institutions, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. In 2012, he was a fellow at Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of African and African American Research.


About the Series: 

Humanities Iowa has generously funded another series of presentations from visiting historians, professors, and lecturers. This year’s series will be tied to our current exhibit, Driven By Hope, which focuses on African American migration following the Civil War. The presentations are between February and July. Topics will focus on responses to migration – music, fashion, food, social responses, legal responses, and even some discussion on current migration and immigration issues. Be sure to join us for these free, engaging, and thought-provoking presentations!