Friday, November 12, 2010

Domestic Migration Ghettos

I like to joke that I live in Little Pittsburgh, Colorado. The expatriate enclave is all in my head. At best, the location enjoys an ephemeral existence on game day at a Steelers bar. Yet domestic migration ghettos are a discernible part of the American landscape:

About the only thing about the upbringing that wasn't Southern, in fact, was the address. Flint might seem a part of the South only if you were standing in, say, Green Bay or Duluth. But Coburn says Flint was a destination for the mass migration of Southerners — including his paternal grandfather, from the southern Missouri town of Hornersville — who landed in Michigan's urban centers in the mid-20th century, lured by jobs in the auto industry. So in Flint, Coburn was surrounded by neighborhoods like Little Missouri, kids who had family back in Tennessee or Florida, and neighborhoods, like the one he grew up in, that were built to resemble the rural towns the people had left behind.

I've already blogged about Detroit's Little Appalachia. The theme of that post is the kind of regions that emerge from historical geographies. The scars of the Great Migration are still evident.

The same should be true of the Not-So-Great Migration out of the Rust Belt. As the tide of people continues to recede, what will be the Northern imprint on Southern communities? I have a hard time imagining a significant landscape legacy.


Anonymous said...

You'll find the joke is that Dayton is the "northmost city in Kentucky". There really is a Dayton, KY, and it really is the northermost city. But the joke is about Dayton OHIO.

The migration from the Applachian South was MASSIVE to Dayton, changing the character of the place from a peripheral Great Lakes place (with a dusting of southern and eastern European immigration) to a place more like an Upper South city, down to music preferences, religous affiliations, foodways, and the local accent or dialect becoming "Southernized".

Jim Russell said...

Thanks for the information. I've become very curious about the Appalachian migration and its legacy in the Industrial North. I think it speaks to a smaller Rust Belt and undermines the possibilities of large megaregions such as Chi-Pitts or the Great Lakes.