Should Black People Move Back Down South?

The first topic we tackle in The Diversity Remix podcast: Charles Blow’s suggestion that Black people migrate back to the South. I argue it’s not that simple.


Georgia makes both arguments.

In the most recent election cycle, Black voters in the state shifted the outcome of the presidential race and delivered a Senate majority to the Democrats, showing the impact a motivated subset of voters can have.

And then last week, lawmakers in the state passed new measures limiting vote by mail, ballot drop boxes and evening voting hours — measures that will make it harder for working-class, urban citizens to vote, and undermine the impact of Black voters there.

Last week I was the guest on a podcast, The Diversity Remix; (click here to listen), talking about one of the central ideas in his latest book, The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto. The idea: That to focus political power, African Americans should move to a handful of strategic metropolitan areas in the South. I love the debate the book has sparked, but I have serious doubts.

I’ve spent a little time living in the South, and from my experience the culture shock many people would experience in moving might be significant. There’s the question of what kinds of jobs would be available to support a migration of tens of thousands of people, and how the school systems would cope. And then there’s the matter of legal maneuvers like the one Georgia lawmakers just executed, which dampen the impact of the Black voter population.

The debate reminds me of the tension between Black community leaders W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, more than 100 years ago.

Washington argued for Black people to focus on self determination, practical skills and economic progress first, and delay pushes for civil rights and legal protections. Du Bois argued that civil rights and legal protections couldn’t wait. I’m inclined to think that, while Charles Blow’s case for a reverse migration to the South makes sense on paper, economic and legal realities would trip things up.

You can explore those ideas from Du Bois and Washington, and how ideas have driven progress, in The Black Experience in America: The Course. Download an overview here, or take select lessons by following the links below:

You can take portions of The Course online. Buy a lesson bundle, and send others the link:

Also, it’s now easy to purchase a lesson as a gift:

New: Buy a $5 lesson in The Course for someone else! Fully-paid access to an interactive lesson will go to the email address of your choice. This is a great option for introducing kids to the lessons.