The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and how it Changed America

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Vintage Books, 1991 - History - 408 pages
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Between the early 1940s and the late 1960s, more than five million African Americans left the fields and farms of the Deep South and headed for the big cities, where they hoped to find the economic comfort and legal rights denied them under Jim Crow. This great migration changed the United States from a country where race was a regional issue and black culture existed mainly in rural isolation into one where race relations affect the texture of life in nearly every city and suburb; it altered politics and popular culture at every level. Nicholas Lemann's narrative concerns the people and lives that were transformed by this migration. First, he tells the stories of several families who left the cotton plantations and small towns, heading north. He then examines the political figures, mostly white, who formulated the official response to this huge demographic shift. The migration was so gradual that it was barely noticed by the establishment until it was nearly over; suddenly politicians realized there was a crisis in the ghettos that they had to try to solve, even though they didn't understand it.--From publisher description.

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The promised land: the great Black migration and how it changed America

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Focusing on the larger post-1940 complement of the black South-to-North movement--the "Great Black Migration''--that created New York's Harlem and similar black quarters in every major northern city ... Read full review

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I read the book when it was first published in 1992; read it again in 2002 and am now re-reading it. This is an important piece of work in understanding how our country moved from slavery until our current conditions of poverty and government funded programs; well researched and extremely thought-provoking. I would love to see Nicholas Lemann write part 2. 

About the author (1991)

Nicholas Lemann, a native of New Orleans, developed an interest in journalism during his teenage years. This eagerness to write was coupled with a keen interest in United States history and literature. He pooled his curiosities, earning a degree in American literature and history from Harvard University in 1976. Journalism became Lemann's main occupation, as he built his writing career through working for the Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, and the Washington Post. In 1983, he joined the Atlantic Monthly staff. His love for American history peaked with the publication of his commentary on the African-American migration to Chicago in search of jobs and a better life. Lemann's book, The Promised Land, captured the 1991 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in journalism. His articles span many interests, from book reviews and political topics to travel stories about the Catskill Mountains and other natural wonders. He contributes many articles, not only to the Atlantic Monthly but to several other magazines as well. Nicholas Lemann, his wife Dominique Browning, and their two sons live in New York City.

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