Our Diaspora

“Where are your people from?” It was a question that always made its’ way into my conversations with other Black children back in the day in Seattle. After exchanging pleasantries and learning that we ‘clicked’ with one another we would ask where our respective families came from. After all, it was known and understood that none of us were really from the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, whemever I asked the question it always led back to one of the states of the Confederacy. We may not have been born in Dixie ourselves, but our parents and grandparents carried her mark. As I continue my study of chattel slavery within the United States I find myself becoming more and more fascinated with this internal diaspora.  From the early years of the Twentieth century through the 1960s millions of African Americans fanned out across the country, heading north and west to get away from Jim Crow. My family participated in both phases of the migration. My maternal Grandma left Mississippi for the Midwest in the 1940s. Twenty years later my oldest aunties would move to Washington state; the rest of our family would follow by 1981. I’ve read of the vast numbers of African-Americans who abandoned the state of Mississippi alone, and the movement amazes me. Due to the stories my Grandma and others shared of Mississippi with me I’ve always had very mixed feelings about our place of origin. I can see why so many of my forbears decided to leave. However I recognize that the Great Migration is an important part of the story of my people in this land, and I look forward to learning more about it this year.

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