Return Migration to the South
A Changing Tide
The New South: Jim Crow Dismantled
From the "Rust Belt" to the "Sun Belt"
The Urban Crisis
The Southern Brain Gain
Family Matters
The Legacies: A New Great Migration?

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< From the "Rust Belt" to the "Sun Belt"The Southern Brain Gain >

Deteriorating physical and social conditions of the inner cities of the North and West were as tangible as the economic upturn and growing job opportunities in the South in the 1970s. During the 1960s, the problem of "the ghetto" - urban decay, inner-city poverty, and unrest - appeared urgent. The decade saw a resurgence of urban uprisings in African-American neighborhoods, generally in response to manifestations of discrimination.

Hundreds of disturbances occurred throughout the 1960s in black urban neighborhoods, the most significant of which took place in the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, in Newark and Detroit in 1967, and following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 in cities across the country. This inner-city turmoil troubled many, including the residents of affected neighborhoods.

Earnest Smith commented after his move back to the South in 1971: "For the first 20 years, life in Chicago was real nice. ... But the last five years was when I come to gettin' scared. They killed [Dr. Martin Luther] King and the people started tearin' up the place. Crime in Chicago got so bad that I got scared and started carryin' a gun." To many, both the physical and social foundations of many urban African-American communities appeared to be crumbling in the late 1960s.

Issues around urban decay and poverty were of great interest to federal policy makers in the 1960s. Even before the "urban crisis" was on the national radar, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "war on poverty" in his State of the Union address in 1964. After the Watts riot, the problem of the ghetto and African-American poverty became the most urgent of domestic issues.

The Johnson Administration created a number of Great Society programs between 1964 and 1967 to address urban poverty, which disproportionately affected African Americans. These programs included the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created the Office of Economic Opportunity to administer community-based antipoverty programs; the establishment of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Model Cities Program, which funneled federal money to "blighted" communities; and many others, including Medicare, Job Corps, Head Start, Community Action Programs, and Food Stamps.

Despite all the attention that urban decay, unrest, unemployment, and poverty in the "ghetto" received in the 1960s, the programs spearheaded by the government were largely ineffective and highly criticized. When Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, he dismantled virtually all of Johnson's "war on poverty" programs.

African-American migration from the urban North to the South accelerated in part because of the dismal economic and social conditions faced by inner-city communities, but the South faced comparable problems. Rural poverty, for instance, was (and remains) one of the most entrenched economic problems in the United States. Nevertheless, the future of the urban North grew less and less promising for African Americans.

< From the "Rust Belt" to the "Sun Belt"
The Southern Brain Gain >