The Great Migration: Number of Migrants
 The paragraphs that follow are excerpted from
The Southern Diaspora:
How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America
by James N. Gregory

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The size of the diaspora is the first revelation. Until recently historians have looked at the decade-to-decade differences in the numbers of southerners living outside the region and treated those differences as the volume of out-migration. But that approach sees only the tip of an iceberg. To get a realistic idea of how many people left the South we have to do more than count noses at the end of each decade. We also need some idea how many earlier migrants died during the decade and how many had returned home, in other words how many newcomers were needed just to keep the expatriate population stable.  Figure 1.2 uses information about mortality and return migration to estimate the decade-by-decade volumes of migration from the South....

The totals are much larger than have been reported for both the black southern migration and the white migration. Over the course of the twentieth century close to 8 million black southerners, nearly 20 million white southerners, and more than one million southern-born Latinos participated in the diaspora, some leaving the South permanently,  others temporarily. Look at  Figure 1.2. Notice the way the century of migration divides into two distinct periods. The first phase starts with the initial decade of the century. Migration volumes grow in the teens when at least 1.3 million southerners leave home, reach a peak in the 1920s with two million new migrants, then taper off in the 1930s. A much bigger second wave begins with World War II when more than 4 million southerners move north or west, grows even larger in the 1950s when at least 4.3 million left the South, remains near that  level through the 1960s and 1970s, and then declines in the 1980s and 1990s.

The chart also displays the relative size of black and white migrations, clearing up another issue. Nicholas Lemann writes that the African American diaspora was “one of the largest and most rapid internal movements of people in history—perhaps the greatest not caused by the immediate threat of execution or starvation.”   He is not alone in misreading the numbers. Several other historians also assert that black migrants outnumbered or nearly equaled their white southern counterparts.  In fact white out-migrants outnumbered blacks during every decade and usually by a very large margin. In the Great Migration era of the early twentieth century when African Americans moved north for the first time in large numbers and established much-noticed communities in the major cities, less-noticed white southerners actually outnumbered them by roughly two to one. After 1950 the margins became larger, and still larger as the century drew to a close. Over the course of the twentieth century more than twenty-eight million southerners left their home region. Twenty-seven percent were African Americans, 69 percent non-Hispanic whites, and 4 percent were southern-born Latinos, Tejanos mostly, who had been joining the flow north and west since World War II (see also Table  A.1)     

excerpts from  Ch 1 "A Century of Migration"

For specific data on the volumes of migration, patterns of settlement, and economic experience of the migrants see the following tables in Appendix A of The Southern Diaspora

The Southern Diaspora: How The Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America is the first historical study of the Southern Diaspora in its entirety. Between 1900 and the 1970s, twenty million southerners migrated north and west. Weaving together for the first time the histories of these black and white migrants, James Gregory traces their paths and experiences in a comprehensive new study that demonstrates how this regional diaspora reshaped America by "southernizing" communities and transforming important cultural and political institutions.

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Read the Preface and Introduction.



Table A.1
Migration Volumes by Decade

Table A.2
Return migration at selected intervals by southern born persons living in North and West

Table A.3
Where Southerners lived in 1970: States

Table A.4

Median family incomes for black and white southerners and nonsoutherners living outside the South, 1939-1989

Table A.5
Comparing average personal earnings of working-age (25-54) southerners living in the metropolitan areas of the Great Lakes states, 1939-1969, controlling for education

Table A.6
Southern-white residence and home ownership patterns 1960, 1970

Table A.7
1920: Occupations of former southerners and others in civilian labor force outside the South

Table A.8
1950 Occupations of former southerners and others in the civilian labor outside the South

Table A.9
1970 Occupations of former southerners and others outside the South

Table A.10
1970 Family income and male occupations for Southerners living in Mid Atlantic states, Great Lakes states, Pacific states

Table A.11
Comparing economic outcomes for migrants from different subregions of the South 1969

Table A.12
Comparing poorly educated southern migrants, recent southern migrants, and other white males  (age 25-54) living in Great Lakes States

Table A.13
Industrial concentrations of  white southerners (male and female) in selected states 1970 

Table A.14
Southern whites, southern blacks, and other groups in three industries, Great Lakes states 1970

Table A.15
Homeownership rates among black households in metropolitan areas outside the South 1920-1970

Table A.16
Best jobs and non-elite jobs held by African Americans  in metropolitan areas outside the South, 1920

Table A.17
Best jobs and non-elite jobs held by African Americans  in metropolitan areas outside the South, 1940

Table A.18
Best jobs held by African Americans in metropolitan areas outside the South 1950
Table A.19
Best jobs held by African Americans in metropolitan areas outside the South 1960
Table A.20
Best jobs held by African Americans in metropolitan areas outside the South 1970

Table A.21
Personal earnings for southern-born and other working age (25-54) black adults in metropolitan areas outside the South 1939-1969

Table A.22

Table A.23