- Have you ever been at a networking event, minding your own business, trying to avoid all potential human interaction, when someone walks up to you and starts small talk?
- But there's really only one question that throws the both of us into a bit of an existential identity crisis.
- [Man] So where are you from?
- Where are you from?
(ominous music) (people chattering) - [Man] But where are you from?
- Yeah, I'm from San Antonio, Texas.
210 For Vida!
- Fort Worth, Texas, yeah.
But I moved there from Louisiana when I was 12, so.
- Yes, I was born and raised there, from the hospital to high school.
- No, I wasn't born there, but it's the first place that I remember, really, so I don't really claim where I was born.
- Actually, no.
My parents are from Virginia.
- My parents, they are from Kenya.
So they moved here, had me.
- Yes, I am sure that both of my parents were born in Virginia.
- No, I only speak English.
I don't speak Swahili, so kind of that first-gen kid.
- Okay, well, I'm gonna go get another drink, bye!
- It's been nice.
We've referenced our own identities multiple times this season, and not everybody agrees with our points of view.
It can't be umoja every day, am I right?
- Claiming ownership of geographical location is intense down to the zip code.
Just ask any rapper trying to claim a city when they're really from a suburb.
The reason where are you from can be such a huge question for people is because identity isn't just who we are genetically, it's shaped by where we're located on the map as well.
- [Evelyn] A Black American has a kid with an Eritrean immigrant and raises him in Crenshaw, Los Angeles.
- [Hallease] Two Jamaican immigrants meet in Brooklyn and have one child together.
- [Evelyn] A Black family leaves Crowley, Louisiana for a better life in Port Arthur, Texas, and their only child eventually meets another young man from Port Arthur to make the trillest sounds Southeast Texas has ever heard.
- Whoever's in the South to the fullest, you know what I'm saying?
Down to get the souffle.
- Our journeys to and through this country over time create different cultures, from art to food to slang, and of course, music, and as this country contends with the civil rights of its citizens and its immigrants, understanding the impact of human migration is at most important, and at the very least pretty fascinating.
- So let's get our Carmen Sandiego on!
Alexa, play Ludacris "Pimpin' All Over The World"!
- No, Alexa, do not-- - Play it!
- Do not-- - Cut it on!
- Alexa, stop.
(groovy music) - I asked all of you on Instagram for some direction on where we should take this episode and y'all really came through with the suggestions!
- This show really is made in part by viewers like you.
- Human migration is the movement of people from one place to another with the intention of settling permanently or temporarily at a new location.
As a species, we've been doing this forever!
And intracontinental African migration is how we have literal thousands of African ethnicities, each with their own languages.
- [Man] Aye!
Aye shawty, shawty with the locks!
I see you, Nubian queen!
- Actually, the Nubians are from the Sudan-Egypt region of Africa, and statistically speaking, most Black people here are from the Western region, which would make her a Yoruba queen or maybe an Igbo queen.
- Honestly, I don't think I'm really a queen.
I think I'd be more interested in merchanting, textiles maybe.
Just her, myself.
- [Man] All right.
Never mind, dang!
- [Hallease] Fun fact: the first documented African in what Europeans called the New World was not enslaved.
- (gasps) I'm intrigued!
- But he was a conquistador.
- I'm disappointed.
- Speaking of which, we can't have an episode about immigration or migration without recognizing the indigenous land we're standing on right now!
Shout out to the Tonkawa and the Comanche here in Tejas.
- When it comes to understanding Black migration in what we now call The U.S., we went to the GOAT, The National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- There, we got in touch with Jermaine House, the supervisory public affairs specialist, and he said the best guy for the job was senior curator Bill Pretzer.
- Now, we know he's a white guy, y'all, and he knows it too, but Bill is a man with a mission.
- This museum should help make America better.
- [Hallease] What we lovingly call the Black Smithsonian does a great job of showcasing how migration created different cultures of Black folks here.
- The movement of African-American peoples is one of the fundamental characteristics that sets apart African-Americans from other people, certainly in this country, but even around the world.
The first one was quite literally the largest forced migration in human history.
- The numbers: 12.5 million Africans kidnapped, two million died en route across the Atlantic Ocean, 10 million go to the Caribbean and South America, and 400,000 arrive to what is now the United States.
This is the number that was how many people got onboard, and this is how many survived.
- This first forced migration totally transforms the ethnic makeup of the Western world, making race so complex from Brazil to Mexico.
Man, you're always talking 'bout slavery!
- Every episode!
We're over it!
- Excuse me?
- I'm out.
Did you know that the lifespan of someone forced to grow sugarcane in the humid Caribbean was only seven years.
And since you rarely survived childhood, new people were imported annually.
And those growing tobacco in Virginia could at least survive until adulthood and give birth, and that I am a descendant of those people?
- So those are our people.
- Yeah, like a history of survival.
- Yeah, I'm not gon' say anything.
- Yeah, let's just enjoy the show.
- Our bad.
- Mm-hmm, yeah.
- There you go.
- That's more like it.
So the slave trade places the majority of Black people in the Old South: Virginia, The Carolinas, and Georgia.
The Louisiana Purchase literally made the country larger, and the crops du jour changed from tobacco and rice in the Old South to cotton in the New South.
- So you get this huge migration now of about a million people in the first half of the 19th century, so 1800, 1840 or '50, moving from the Old South: Virginia, North, South Carolina, Georgia, to the New South: Alabama, Mississippi, Texas.
- Old South to New South is the first big domestic migration of Black folks, though again, forced.
- When East Coast farmers, plantation owners, started noticing that they had not enough work for their laborers, they would see in the young people on their plantations the opportunity to sell those individuals and make a profit by literally selling their workforce off.
- This migration across the South was on foot, and strategically made of young people because they'd survive the trip and because there were no elders to mentor them in the ways of resistance.
- This new generation of Black folks was separated from their origins and would go on to start a new family line.
- Cotton fields are a different kind of labor than rice field.
And this young population and the environment in which this is all taking place, the opportunities for new kinds of crops.
So food, clothing, hairstyles, language, religion all developed differently in the Mississippi Delta than they had developed two generations earlier on the East Coast.
- Now, before we get into that one migration you probably did learn about in school, let's talk about how the heck people ended up in California.
- Wasn't no LAX, fam!
No Route 66!
- A large group of Black folks made the trek to California in the 1850s and '60s.
About 4,000 people settled in San Francisco and Sacramento.
They created the first English-speaking Black communities out West, but the first Black people in what is now California were from Mexico.
In 1781, the first 44 settlers of present-day LA, The Los Angeles Pobladores, included Africans and people of mixed Spanish and African descent.
Many more followed after Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, 36 years before the U.S. - Now, folks moving out West was impressive, for sure, but mass movement of Black people from the rural South to the urban North is what's considered The Great Migration.
- Now, your history book might have made it seem like The Great Migration was a cute relocation decision, but it was pretty intense.
- Four million enslaved individuals have been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and White supremacy had not been defeated.
For a couple of generations, they tried to make a go of it in the South.
In the face of tremendous violence, consistent racism, and difficult economic conditions.
- Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era South was not where you wanted to be.
- I'ma go ahead and say that.
Slavery was over but its economic structure doesn't just go away overnight.
People remained in unjust working conditions as sharecroppers for example, picking cotton still.
- [Evelyn] The boll weevil basically destroys the cotton crop in the U.S., so what little economic opportunity Black folks in the South had was now wiped out.
- And between about 1900 and 1970, say, six million African-Americans moved primarily from the rural South, not from the cities of the South, but from the farms and fields of the South, to urban centers in the North.
That process requires them to work in factories, to live in crowded streets, to live amongst people that they have not grown up with, to be divorced from or at least separated from their families, and many came to their elders, other generations, so it becomes, again, an entirely new economic, social, and cultural existence in the northern cities.
- The Great Migration changed the geographical face of Blackness in the U.S.. Before 1910, 90% of Black people lived in the South.
By the 1970s, it was half that number.
- Imagine the culture shock of moving from the country to the big city.
Imagine all the stereotypes city Black folk probably had about their rural counterparts.
Location informs your culture.
It even informs race relations to a degree.
- Emmett Till's murder is often used as an example of geographical culture difference.
Though racism has no boundaries, and the North was no utopia, the way White folks interacted with Black kids through the hustle and bustle of inner city Chicago was just different than the thick, defined separation they would expect in rural Mississippi.
Emmett's cousins unfortunately understood and knew how to navigate that.
- This also informs the kind of art you end up making.
Zora Neale Hurston and the stories informed by Black communities in Florida have different nuances than James Baldwin and the work inspired by being Black in New York City.
The Harlem Renaissance is defined as an intellectual and artistic explosion that gave us some of the most iconic American work.
- It wasn't the Atlanta or Oakland Renaissance for a reason.
The Great Migration to the North impacted the population in dramatic ways.
- Speaking of The Big Apple, Statue of Liberty, give me your tired and your poor, immigration created even more layers of Blackness.
- Our powers are multiplying!
- Caribbeans of Black and Spanish descent moved to NYC and mingled with Black Americans to create what is, in my humble opinion, the highest art form and America's greatest export: (record scratches) hiphop.
(smooth hiphop music) - This becomes a real cauldron of creativity.
And the opportunity within an urban setting to make cultural products that have economic value.
- First generation or immigrant kids experienced a different culture than their parents because they grew up here.
Different country, different issues.
- [Evelyn] Kwame Ture moved to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago when he was 11, ended up going to Howard University when he grew up, and eventually collaborated with Black Southerner Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for Civil Rights.
- Black Americans fighting against being treated as second-class citizens in their own country paved the way for immigrant rights.
You can't really separate the two.
- The Immigration Act of 1965 directly resulted in more Africans making their way to the U.S. Immigration from African countries has roughly doubled every decade since 1970.
My dad landed in JFK in the '80s and the rest is my Black history!
- This is another layer of how geographical location can inform culture.
A kid with Nigerian parents grows up in Southwest Alief, Texas and becomes a rapper.
- Your favorite Ethiopian spot in LA is owned by Ethiopians.
- You get yo headdress ready to play mas with your Caribbean friends at the Miami Carnival!
- About 1.7 million Black folks here aren't citizens.
That's 4% of the nation's Black population.
They come here through a variety of circumstances, from the expensive and tedious process of a green card, a student visa like my dad had, or asylum seekers and undocumented folks navigating immigration law.
- The treatment of Black people in this country and the treatment of immigrants intersect to create vulnerable situations for Black immigrants in particular, often left out of both conversations in politics.
- Not gon' lie, sometimes I just want us all to go to space.
How about that?
Take our music, food, art, and dip!
- I feel you, I really do, but until we can figure that out, the new waves of migration reflect how our country is changing.
The high cost of living in big cities is resulting in a return to the Urban South.
- Northerners seen declining economic opportunity, seen the expensive nature of living in the urban North, and lacking the kind of social connectivity that they had generationally with their ancestors, look back to the South, particularly the urban South where there's economic opportunity, and there's been this reverse migration since the 1970s.
And initially, there was this, why would you choose to go back to the South?
That's where your grandparents came to avoid that racism.
Well the answer is there is, in fact, a changed urban environment.
Again, it's not that racism is eradicated.
Now, you could move yourself and recreate that old sense of place by reconnecting with the food, with the family, with the place, but it's a very real movement that is an expression of cultural agency.
- And some are taking a page out of the book of our Harlem Renaissance icons and chilling in Paris, 'cause we're over it.
Listen, Ghana be calling me sometimes!
Imagine not having to buy Shea butter on Amazon!
While we personally don't all the way subscribe to the whole melting pot thing, it is cool to think about how place can impact people and vice versa.
- Black Americans have a diverse geographical history, so if we ever catch y'all saying some foolishness like I'm just Black, we will throw hands!
I personally choose to take pride in my history of survival, amen.
- And that's that on that.
- So where are you from?
How did y'all get there?
And where do you wanna go?
Tell us in the comments!
- Give this video a like, follow us @sayitloudpbs, and subscribe so you don't miss us next time.
- [Both] Bye!