Southern Migrants, Northern Exiles

Southern Migrants, Northern Exiles

3.33 (9 ratings by Goodreads)
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Examines one of the largest internal immigrations in the U.S., allowing those migrating workers the opportunity to talk about their own experiences and how their migration influenced their lives and futures.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 264 pages
  • 152.1 x 226.8 x 19.6mm | 457.84g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 0252068416
  • 9780252068416

Back cover copy

One of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history, the great white migration left its mark on virtually every family in every southern upland and flatland town. In this extraordinary record of ordinary lives, dozens of white southern migrants describe their experiences in the northern "wilderness" and their irradicable attachments to family and community in the South.

Southern out-migration drew millions of southern workers to the steel mills, automobile factories, and even fields and orchards of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Through vivid oral histories, Chad Berry explores the conflict between migrants' economic success and their "spiritual exile" in the North. He documents the tension between factory owners who welcomed cheap, naive southern laborers and local "native" workers who greeted migrants with suspicion and hostility. He examines the phenomenon of "shuttle migration", in which migrants came north to work during the winter and returned home to plant spring crops on their southern farms. He also explores the impact of southern traditions -- especially the southern evangelical church and "hillbilly" music -- brought north by migrants.

Berry argues that in spite of being scorned by midwesterners for violence, fecundity, intoxication, laziness, and squalor, the vast majority of southern whites who moved to the Midwest found the economic prosperity they were seeking. By allowing southern migrants to assess their own experiences and tell their own stories, Southern Migrants, Northern Exiles refutes persistent stereotypes about migrants' clannishness, life-style, work ethic, and success in the North.
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Review quote

"Berry lets the migrants themselves tell the story of their difficult decisions... Well written in almost every way, [this volume] makes clear the importance of the interaction between North and South, urban and rural, comfortable and poor, and it makes us care about the people whose lives played out those interactions." -- Rebecca Sharpless, Journal of Southern History "A fascinating human drama, and ... an excellent illustration of how cultures confront each other, adapt, and produce a synthesis or standoff... [Migrants' stories] add a dimension to history for not only students of daily life, community, and acculturation, but also for anyone who enjoys a good read." -- H. Wayne Morgan, Journal of Illinois History "Effectively weaving personal anecdotes drawn from oral histories with economic and demographic data, this is an important contribution to the literature about the twentieth century South." -- Choice "Berry's excellent new study of upland white southerners' sojourns and settlements in the Middle West is most welcome, then, and with Gregory's work [American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California] constitutes a model for a still-needed examination of white southerners in the Northeast... Berry has read censuses and the works of sociologists and geographers with care, but his presentation is dominated by the voices of migrants themselves." -- Jack Temple Kent, American Historical Review "Berry has done an excellent job of filling in a great deal of useful information about this 'Diaspora.' ... [This volume] is an extremely important part of the current research effort to broaden our understanding of the Appalachian and southern migrant experience." -- Roberta M. Campbell, Journal of Appalachian Studies "Relatively little scholarly work has been done on white southern out-migration... Berry has attempted to fill in the historiographic gap. The result is a book that will speak to historians of the South and the Midwest and to specialists on immigration and African American history, who will mine this book for illuminating points of comparison and contrast." -- Jeanette Keith, Journal of American History "An engaging book that makes an important contribution to the substantial literature on Southern migration... Importantly revises and corrects the historical record, while mobilizing compelling personal voices and critiquing debasing stereotypes... Berry focuses intensely on the emotional ambivalence of migrants and rightly makes it the core of his account... He has opened a textured view onto a complicated cultural terrain scored by a restless flow of people, sentiments, lifestyles, and music." -- John Hartigan, Appalachian Journal "[This] fair and important appraisal of the white migrant experience ... will be of interest to historians of the twentieth century South and Midwest." -- Robert S. Smith, Northwest Ohio Quarterly "An important book for all students of southern history, rural/urban studies, and American culture in general." -- C. Fred Williams, Arkansas Historical Quarterly "A lively, well-writen, and provocative account of the white southern migration experience throughout the course of the entire past century by compiling and organizing oral history records that allow these exiles to tell their own stories in their own words... The move north not only changed the southerners that went there. They changed the north as well by transplanting southern white culture in the Midwest... Berry describes three cultural institutions -- the church, the tavern, and country music -- that both eased and expressed the pain of southern out-migration while leaving a permanent imprint on the culture of the communities where southerners built their lives." -- Dwight B. Billings, Southern Quarterly "Berry's work places the complex character of southern white migration into the larger contexts of national and international demographic and economic transformation. It is a valuable addition to the growing body of recent scholarship that is challenging longstanding assumptions about Appalachian exceptionalism and victimization." -- John Hennen, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "One of the most significant population movements in midwestern history was the migration of white southerners to the Great Lakes states during the twentieth century... A sympathetic and insightful study of the northward movement and its consequences." -- Jon C. Teaford, Indiana Magazine of History "An important and charming book about southern working-class whites who between World War I and the 1960s left the South for the industrial cities of the Midwest. Berry uses extensive oral history interlaced with census reports, newspaper accounts, and a wide variety of popular and scholarly articles to weave together a hard history of statistical and economic analysis with the softer stories of individual migration... Deserves a place in any library... Useful and pleasant reading." -- James A. Hodges, History "A fine study of the people who with 'divided heart' left their homes in pursuit of better lives for their families - -and who by and large achieved success in their adopted region." -- Marie Tedesco, Journal of East Tennessee History "Berry's main goal and achievement ... is in demonstrating the great diversity in the southern white migrant experience, and in placing all of this in a compelling new framework. He accomplishes this in style, combining readability with insightful social analysis." -- J. Trent Alexander, Journal of Social History "Provides a wonderful analysis of life in the prewar South, the white migration to the North, and the slow and awkward process of assimilation... Wide breadth is the greatest strength of his work, first providing the reader with a full understanding of why these people chose to leave their homes, the process of their move, and how they acclimated to their new environment." -- David Gerard Hogan, Ohio History ADVANCE PRAISE "An eloquent addition to the social history of the South and Midwest." -- Daniel Nelson, author of Workers in the Midwest, 1880-1990 "An ambitious and interesting study that offers much new information and illuminates some incidents and trends not noticed before." -- Dr. Gordon McKinney, director, Appalachian Center, Berea College
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Rating details

9 ratings
3.33 out of 5 stars
5 11% (1)
4 22% (2)
3 56% (5)
2 11% (1)
1 0% (0)
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