Not all migration stories are across national borders. In fact, humans have been on the move well before the creation of national borders. Despite the lack of an international boundary, it does not mean that the decision to migrate is not a complicated one. It involves uprooting one’s self, sometimes one’s family, and taking a journey to a new land, with new rules and customs. While migration can be liberating, it can also be difficult.
Some have argued that the migration of six million African Americans to the North, between the end of World War I and continuing to the 1970s, is more similar to stories of international refugees that other voluntary migrations that have shaped the history of the United States. Others push back, arguing that talking about African Americans as refugees, in a country that is constitutionally obligated to guarantee equal rights for all citizens is offensive. In this TED talk, scholar and author Isabel Wilkerson explores the power of the decisions made by African Americans to leave the Jim Crow South.