Blacks in the big city North moving back to the South after 3 or 4 generations? Why, it just can't be!
The Rev. Floyd H. Flake, pastor of the 23,000-member Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, said he was losing hundreds of congregants yearly to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
“For decades, Queens has been the place where the African-American middle class went to buy their first home and raise a family,” Mr. Flake said. “But now, we are seeing a reversal of this as African-Americans feel this is no longer as easy to achieve and that the South is more benevolent than New York.”
Some blacks say they are leaving not only to find jobs, but also because they have soured on race relations.
Candace Wilkins, 27, of St. Albans, who remains unemployed despite having a business degree, plans to move to Charlotte, N.C.
She said her decision was prompted by an altercation with the police.
In March 2010, witnesses say, Ms. Wilkins was thrown against a car by a white police officer after she tried to help a black neighbor who was being questioned. She was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Ms. Wilkins disputes the charges, which are pending, and has filed a complaint against the police. A police spokeswoman said the department was investigating her complaint.
“Life has gone full circle,” said Ms. Wilkins, whose grandmother was born amid the cotton fields of North Carolina and moved to Queens in the 1950s.
“My grandmother’s generation left the South and came to the North to escape segregation and racism,” she said. “Now, I am going back because New York has become like the old South in its racial attitudes.”
The movement marks an inversion of the so-called Great Migration, which lasted roughly from World War I to the 1970s and saw African-Americans moving to the industrializing North to escape prejudice and find work.
Spencer Crew, a history professor at George Mason University who was the curator of a prominent exhibit on the Great Migration at the Smithsonian Institution, said the current exodus from New York stemmed largely from tough economic times. New York is increasingly unaffordable, and blacks see more opportunities in the South.
The South now represents the potential for achievement for black New Yorkers in a way it had not before, Professor Crew said. At the same time, unionized civil service jobs that once drew thousands of blacks to the city are becoming more scarce.
“New York has lost some of its cachet for black people,” Professor Crew said. “During the Great Migration, blacks went north because you could find work if you were willing to hustle. But today, there is less of a struggle to survive in the South than in New York. Many blacks also have emotional and spiritual roots in the South. It is like returning home.”
But it's not just blacks, either, as people and businesses of all stripes are heading to the friendlier business climates of low tax and right-to-work states, many of which are in the South.
After all and aside from cultural implications, higher taxes and onerous regulations that raise the cost of living and constrict the labor market are in themselves a type of oppression as well.
* Pictured: The Atlanta skyline