While African-American return migration to the South may have caught social scientists by surprise in the 1970s, it was not merely a blip on the radar. The South continued to register a net gain of African-American migrants through the 1970s and 1980s, and in-migration increased dramatically in the 1990s. In the first half of the decade, the South recorded a net gain of 368,000 African Americans, compared with a gain of 97,000 in the first five years of the previous decade.
In this same period, 65 percent of the nation's black population growth took place in the South. The most recent census data, for the years 1995 to 2000, reveal a continuation of this trend: approximately 680,000 African Americans moved to the South and 330,000 moved out, for a net gain in the region of 350,000.
Enough time has passed since World War I and the great surge in African-American migration from south to north to comprehend the momentous transformations wrought by this demographic shift. It has been barely three decades since the flow of the Great Migrations reversed itself. And the trend is far from over: the net migration to the South continues to grow in the twenty-first century.
While social scientists and the migrants themselves attempt to understand the push-and-pull factors shaping such a demographic shift, the full impact of this movement has yet to be realized. The return of African Americans to the South may come to rank among the nation's great migrations.
Whatever its causes and effects may be, after "generations of separation and decades of forgetfulness," as Maya Angelou observed, many African Americans have found "that they can come home again."