Progress and individualism are very much celebrated in American culture. Many people migrate to urban cities in the search of economic prosperity and to achieve the elusive “American Dream.” City life can often come as a shock to individuals not accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle; conversely it can change a person. Such change can transform a person to lose the values and beliefs they were raised with which consequently attribute to losing the bonds that they once held with their families. This is not the case with the families portrayed in Carol Stack’s ethnography Call to Home. The book depicts Southern African-American families living in rural, North and South Carolina’s towns – which migrate to northern urban cities for economic opportunities – known as the Great Migration, and ultimately decide to return home. This essay explores the motives that caused Reverse Migration which include kin ties, structural and environmental violence endured, the role of the children, and the novel philosophies the diaspora brings with them upon returning home.
The Great Migration to northern states subtly began in the 1920’s, during the Jim Crow era (J. Stevenson, personal communication, November 12, 2013). An economic boom in the 1940’s during World War II generated the second Great Migration as families in the South were facing structural and environmental violence (J. Stevenson, personal communication, November 18, 2013). Poor infrastructure, lack of opportunities and jobs and incessant poverty inspired migration towards the northern and northwestern part of the country (J. Stevenson, personal communication, November 12, 2013), however Stack’s ethnography primarily focuses on families and individuals that have migrated to northern states (Stack, 1996).
The Southern African American familial structure was that of the children being the bond between the North and the South. While in the north, individual’s sustained close bonds with their families and home. The adults often flocked home during summer vacations or whenever possible. Moreover the children were key players in maintaining close relations between the families in the North and South. Children were often sent to the South for summer vacations, semesters during the school year and some for most of their childhood when their parents moved away. It was not that parents did not want to take them but it was that they wanted the grandparents to raise their children as to instill and not lose sight of family values (Stack, 1996). Although most children were left for grandparents to rear, the children and the young adults were also caring for the elderly by helping them cope with ailments due to old age. In turn the adults in the north were helping their communities back home by sending their hard earned money.
Family values and traditions are very important in maintaining social bonds in African American families. In addition, it is clear that African American families are matrifocal and...