The Great Migration

The Great Migration of the early 20th century—the decision of more than a million African Americans to leave southern states to find greater economic opportunities and the possibility of more political and social freedom in northern cities—defined the history of the United States. In doing so, it posed significant challenges to writers and artists. How should artists and writers represent a mass phenomenon? Could any individual or individuals be representative of this movement? Had the consciousness of black southerners changed prior to leaving the south, or was any significant transformation a post-migration occurrence? To explore possible answers to these questions this seminar will examine one novel, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), one literary pastiche, Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), and two collaborative works that combine text and visual images, Richard Wright’s and Edwin Rosskam’s 12 Million Black Voices (1941), and Langston Hughes and Jacob Lawrence’s One-Way Ticket (1948).