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The African American Roots of ModernismFrom Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance$
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James Smethurst

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834633

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807878088_smethurst

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The Black City

The Black City

The Early Jim Crow Migration Narrative and the New Territory of Race

(p.96) Chapter Three The Black City
The African American Roots of Modernism

James Smethurst

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter discusses one of the chief features structuring the growth of the modern, post-Reconstruction city in the United States, a feature that would grow more obvious as the twentieth century wore on: the racial segregation of urban space on a new scale and the growth of the black ghetto. As Farah Jasmine Griffin observes in her seminal Who Set You Flowin'?, the migration narrative describing the movement from a provincial, often rural ancestral home in the South to the northern metropolis was a dominant form of African American expressive culture in many genres and media during the twentieth century. On one level, that migration and urbanization should be at the center of African American writing in the twentieth century seems self-evident. One could argue that, other than racism and Jim Crow themselves, the “Great Migration” of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West over a period of about sixty years was the single largest fact shaping African American life in the twentieth century.

Keywords:   post-Reconstruction city, racial segregation, urban space, black ghetto, Farah Jasmine Griffin

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