Another “Great Migration”?

It’s a truism that reasonable policymaking requires a familiarity with history, and the ability to apply the lessons of history to current issues. That’s one of the many reasons that the current Rightwing efforts to label a major part of American history as (that dreaded) “CRT”, and dispense with its study, is so misguided.

There are lessons to be learned–and legislators in several states (including Indiana) rather clearly haven’t learned them.

Even before the current efforts to eliminate America’s mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people from school textbooks, those texts glossed over the “Great Migration.” That’s a shame, because the legal and social realities that drove Black Southerners North should warn Red state legislators about the likely consequences of imposing disabilities on women.

A recent essay drew that parallel:

As soon as Black Americans had the ability and resources to leave the Deep South after the Civil War, they left…. More than six million Black Americans moved from the former Confederate states to the Civil War-era Union states between 1910 and 1970….

Jim Crow laws were America’s shameful version of apartheid, resulting in racial inequality and state-sanctioned terror.  Jim Crow laws restricted every aspect of life for Black Americans, making it nearly impossible for Blacks, or for that matter white Americans, to reach their human potential. But while whites suffered from the contagious disease of racism, they also benefited at the expense of their Black neighbors.

The same states that practiced the most pernicious forms of Jim Crow are also the states that today restrict the health care rights of women. The lesson of the Great Migration of Black Americans is that people can and arguably should vote with their feet.  Women — by the millions — must be at least contemplating leaving these states and moving to states where their rights are duly respected.

As of this week, 15 states have passed total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. These 15 states do not include Georgia, which recently passed a ban after six weeks, but they do include Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho and Nebraska. The female population in these states is approximately 60 million.

The essay was written by Fred McKinney, a co-founder of BJM Solutions. BJM is described as “an economic consulting firm that conducts public and private research since 1999.” McKinney is also the emeritus director of the Peoples Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac University.

The essay echoed an argument I’ve made on this blog and in the book I recently co-authored on women’s progress: women will choose to attend universities, take jobs and raise families in states that respect their fundamental rights.

Legislatures passing these retrograde laws have failed to appreciate their inevitably negative economic impact.  Businesses understand that women’s choices–where to attend a university, where to accept a job– aren’t abstractions. They are a reality, and  employers  are highly likely to factor that reality into their own location decisions–decisions that are already heavily influenced by the availability of a talented and skilled workforce.

It won’t just be women who exercise their choice to settle in fairer states; there are plenty of men who share women’s political and medical concerns. And as the essay points out, the people leaving backward and restrictive states will largely be those who possess the greatest drive and skills, those who can most easily relocate.

There are also those recent travel advisories issued by the NAACP, Equality Florida, and the League of Latin American Citizens–precursors of other advisories affecting tourism. The economies of a number of states, not just Florida, are heavily dependent on tourism.

These realities will depress economic conditions in Red states like Indiana–an obvious consequence that our truly terrible and unrepresentative legislators have failed to comprehend.

The last Great Migration had an enormous impact on American society. As the Smithsonian Magazine explains:

By leaving, they would change the course of their lives and those of their children. They would become Richard Wright the novelist instead of Richard Wright the sharecropper. They would become John Coltrane, jazz musician instead of tailor; Bill Russell, NBA pioneer instead of paper mill worker; Zora Neale Hurston, beloved folklorist instead of maidservant. The children of the Great Migration would reshape professions that, had their families not left, may never have been open to them, from sports and music to literature and art: Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Jacob Lawrence, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, Prince, Michael Jackson, Shonda Rhimes, Venus and Serena Williams and countless others.

Women’s “great migration” is next.

Red states’ continued social and economic decline can be traced to legislatures that refuse to learn the lessons of history.


  1. Again; watching CNN 4:00 a.m. Newsroom works into today’s blog. The “Great Migration” of migrant workers coming across our southern border to do the most physically demanding, dirty work of harvesting crops for lowest wages to send home to families and support themselves while living here is another form of slavery, not covered by the 13th Amendment. An acceptable form of slavery which is now adversely affected by border laws and farmers are now left with a slowdown of harvesting their produce to sent to markets to feed families and/or for export. Will the crops be left to rot in the fields and will we continue to see empty shelves in our markets?

    I view the system as one of white privilege in the form of condescension of those viewed as lower class humans with dark skin to serve as laborers (slaves) doing the work too many white people believe to be below them…actually it is simply a too demanding form of physical labor for them to be forced to do for a pittance. As for women in this equation; women migrants are also included in this work force. Consider it is primarily women who scrub toilet bowls in our homes, including those yellow streaks and splatters from males with poor aim or lack of concentration. This is one job where race isn’t considered but is left to women of all races unless they work outside the home cleaning toilets for a living and at home. Of course there are always those rare exceptions; but in the migrant labor force women are equal.

    “These realities will depress economic conditions in Red states like Indiana–an obvious consequence that our truly terrible and unrepresentative legislators have failed to comprehend.”

  2. I agree with JoAnn’s statement on the employment of migrants. Currently, there are more job opportunities available for low-skilled workers among migrant communities than there are for Americans. We see employment gains and unemployment rising simultaneously.

    Unfortunately, in certain red states, there has been a return to employing child labor in an attempt to fill positions in meatpacking plants. Second Gilded Age????

    Workers will gravitate to unions (although they have problems too) as their labor is the only thing they have to negotiate. Low-skilled jobs need representation. Moving around the country isn’t feasible and shows poor planning on our part.

    The Socialists are better at this because they consider the whole of society and not just one aspect. When we are nationalizing our industrial base, having states competing against one another isn’t rational at all. It needs to be centrally planned so it benefits ALL of society.

    We’ll have plenty of time because the global players are rejecting us…

  3. My wife and I kept her parents mobile home in Ft Myers, FL after they died in 2009 and enjoyed it for several years. It was a great place from which to stage our explorations of the state which has so many wonderful areas such as Big Cypress, the Keys, and many others. We dreamed of retirement there, as her parents and so many others have done.
    As time passed, and with the rise of MAGA and the Florida Fascist, it became a place that was increasingly uncomfortable for us. We finally sold it in the Fall of 2021, and have not been back since. While we miss the natural beauty of Florida, we will not return as long as the current governor and legislation continue to pass laws that discriminate against women, LGBT, and other minority communities. I do not want a single dollar of my money to be spent in that state until it changes dramatically.

  4. Between my daughter and me we know five women who have left Indiana in the past three months. Two went to the west coast and the three others left the country altogether. All left for social and political reasons.
    Indiana lost five educated, talented, creative young women, and they won’t be coming back.

  5. It seems to me that with Texas bordering on becoming a blue state, emigrants from all the very red states, particularly in the South, would have a very realistic chance at pushing Texas into becoming Blue if they were able to coordinate their efforts….e.g. don’t move to a really Blue state or out of the country. Once Texas is Blue, we’ll never have another Republican President.

  6. Theresa…good points! And I’ll add that many single mothers, possibly working two jobs to support themselves and a child, don’t have the option to pull up stakes and ”get the hell out of Dodge.”

    Instead, they’ll give up any dreams they might have and raise poorly-educated children. Maybe we’re creating our own ”farm workers?” Look for the GOP’s sucking-up SCOTUS to overturn child labor laws, so these same children can begin working in slaughter houses all over the country.

  7. I’m a college professor. I already have one colleague who have a new job in Maryland because the Texas legislature is “out of control.” I’m not in Texas, I’m in Georgia. Fortunately, I am at a private institution, so I am beyond the reach of the state legislature with respect to DEI initiatives, tenure policies, and what we can and cannot teach about history. I’m old, and would rather use my energy to stay here to fight the good battle while I can. If I were not so aged, I would also be out of here.

  8. Some of todays most economically depressed states are those that had the harshest Jim Crow laws. Denying rights and economic opportunities to a third of your residents shrinks the entire economy of the whole state and then compound that lack of growth over decades and you have the likes of Mississippi and Missouri. Interestingly enough Florida had so little population until it began to boom with AC becoming widely available in the 1950’s, it missed out on the decades economic depression caused by Jim Crow.

  9. And so the dissolution of the USA to the Confederation of Blue States and Red States?

  10. The only part of today’s blog with which I disagree is that these retrograde legislatures don’t understand or appreciate the consequence of what they are doing — while it’s true that many do not, there is an implied “they wouldn’t do it if they understood…”-quality to this argument. I think that many of these Republicans know full well that their policies will drive women out of their states…. But they don’t care. It would make no difference; because they likely understand that women who would leave over these policies are not voters who would support them — so good riddance (to them).

    There is NO evidence that Republicans care that their policies would drive affected groups from their states.

  11. At my age, in my current state of health, I’m not going anywhere. I will stay and fight. I’m not alone in the fight for democracy in my state that is veering quickly towards a replication of 1930s Germany.

  12. Yeah. It’s tempting to have a mass INFLUX of blue voters into red states so they could vote out the assholes in the legislatures and governors’ chairs. The Republican “agenda” is solely about winning elections, not governing. They will do anything, break any norm, alienate any people, destroy any law that keeps them from winning power. What they WON’T do is govern for the people.

    This rapidly increasing downward slide toward our second great division began to speed up with the Reagan administration’s supplication to Friedman economics and anti-union savagery. Yes, the Republican party has become smaller, but they’ve also become more entrenched in their self-destructive desperation.

    If Republicans aren’t removed from government at ALL levels, it will be very soon that elections in our country will resemble those in Russia.

  13. Yes I’ve learned from history myself.

    The family ancestral home would be in South Carolina. And those ancestors were the Hockaday family. He was a white farmer Who claimed several slaves. Because at the time, interracial marriage was illegal. So he claimed his wife and children as owned slaves. He eventually moved north before the civil war. Initially settling in Ohio, and then some of the family migrated towards Wisconsin.

    I won’t get into all of the moving parts because it’s quite lengthy. But what I will say, is they discovered you can run from injustice and turpitude but you really can’t hide from it.

    Just because folks moved north, didn’t mean that they had a free pass against the ignorance of racism and interracial marriage. It caused the death of several of my great uncles. Mining coal in Eastern Ohio, was backbreaking work. Black and white miners worked together in the same close environment. But when there was a cave-in, pulling individuals out of the rubble, my great grandfather’s brother and son were badly injured. They could not go to the local hospital, they had to be put on a train to seek treatment from a hospital for colored people. They died on the way.

    The North is definitely not a panacea of tolerance. And mostly, those individuals can hide their true selves day in and day out. But when they get riled up, their true beliefs gurgle up and out. We can see a goodly portion of those January 6th seditionists were not all from the south but the north, supposedly progressive.

    You cannot legislate behavior. There has to be a reason for individuals to change their opinions on those that are different from themselves. Faith? Hope? Love? Compassion? Empathy? Generosity? These things are progressive. Putting on a new personality is progressive. Demonization and degradation of those not in our particular tribe are nothing but retrogradable hypocrisy. That smarmy slime of turpitude is very powerful. It’s stench is alluring to many. It’s steeped in religious teachings all the way back to what I had written in yesterday’s thread. 1452 and Pope Nicholas v had released his papal bull, Dum Deversas, that excoriated those who were not in the church including minorities. They were subject to abuse and slavery. This started that whole ball rolling. This goes straight back to the church settling in the north initially, and all of the Evangelical Sects that picked up that particular mantle and ran with it.

    Society is definitely in retrograde, and, politicians would have an extremely difficult time to try and change that. Because so many politicians pick up on the fanaticism of this particular retrograde and use it for personal advancement and power. They seek accolades for themselves, and, they see themselves as god-like. That’s a very dangerous thing. And how do you combat it? Changing hearts and minds is possible, but it takes intense work. Not just voting, but interacting, communicating, being empathetic, loving!?!?!? Nah, won’t happen. Self-determination sounds great, but, if the self you rely on is flawed, nothing good will ever come of it.

    History is a lamp to the eye, and if you don’t use that lamp, You are blind to the present. And being blind makes it very likely you’re going to fall into some sort of pit that you can’t ever get out of.

  14. There’s another migration to commence. The purge of our most vulnerable from medicaid. I’ll never understand why this administration hates America and Americans.

  15. Hey, Ian. Come back to earth from your penthouse on Mars. It is the REPUBLICANS WHO PROMOTE HATE AND WANT TO END SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. There I wrote it in all caps so you can read it. Good thing it’s not in cursive.

  16. It seems as if Vern needs a civics class. This lies upon the Biden administration. You would think Democrats would be angry over the largest rise of children thrust upon poverty…

    When all you’ve got is ad homs and willfully ignore facts….

  17. By your choice of words and the derisive tone…Do you hate young people? Do you think I’m black? I can read cursive.

    Vern encapsulates all that is wrong with white-men afflicted by male-menopause. I had no idea you were such a delicate man.

  18. Vernon. Thanks for trying. I suspect Ian has no idea what constitutes evidence or civil discourse. He comes across as the personification of derisive rants.

  19. REPLY

    Yes, Ian, as soon as I read your first comment, my mouth dropped open in disbelief!
    “The Warmth of Other Suns, The Epic Story of America’s Mass Migration,” by Isabel Wilkerson,
    was quite a read, and in another 50 years someone might write another book about “The Woman’s Migration.”
    It would be a shame to see the country still more divided, but women, and their allies, certainly have the right to take care of themselves, and their families. It’s too bad, in a sense, that states do not have the “right” to claim bankruptcy, both economically, and intellectually!

  20. Feeding the trolls again

    Anyway, about the idea of moving to Texas, for the people moving, the question is how long until it flips. It is the same as moving into a newly gentrified neighborhood (leaving aside arguments about gentrification). The first to move in are the ones that get the great deals on housing, but they have to live in the food desert until retailers see a viable customer base.

    I also am reminded of one of Jeff Greenfield’s glib comments in one of his books (don’t remember which). It would be cheaper to win the New Hampshire primary by moving a large group of your voters there for six months (that was the residency requirement at the time). With a small population, it would be easy to sway a primary.

    Texas is large — and Republicans keep finding new ways to be certain that only their supporters get to vote. Still, I hope I live long enough to see it flip — and am young enough at the time to really celebrate. 8)>

  21. I second Mitch D’s comments and mention of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s a wonderfully written book and I learned so much from reading it.

  22. I don’t think they’ve “failed to comprehend” the issue. I think they just don’t care. What matters to them is short-term power (and its potential associated wealth). All else is fluff, to be ignored.

  23. Inferred, but not mentioned is the outflow of medical providers, especially OB/GYN’s. Rural areas are already losing access to care at an alarming rate. This will devastate many “Red” locales.

Comments are closed.