This summer, I am focusing on creating an archive of a movement that has shaped the latter half of the 20th century into the 21st when it comes to contemporary regional culture’s music, culture, and landscape. The Great Migration was a period of great peril and risks for African American families in the South. Living in a Post-reconstruction Jim Crow South, many families found means to migrate to the West Coast, East Coast, Northeast, and Midwest regions of America, where those perils were less violent but still present. Documenting this critical period has been of great interest as I reflect on my family history and how vital migration is in developing African American populations in what would soon be called Black Metropolises in the mid-1900s. The importance of such documentation and personal history builds on this collective story of intimate Black life and its relationship with the collective Black experience as diverse and distinct. Regionally, African Americans from Chicago are ultimately from various states in the South if you travel back a couple of generations. However, a collective of Chicagoan culture developed through the combination of multiple customs, values, and music from the South to form a regional base that is ingrained into the city’s roots. I want to explore these trends, so I decided to start with music.
Music is essential to my life as an artist and music lover. My research started with documenting the Blues as an African American genre rooted in the deep South and traveled northern through Mississippi into Tennessee, St. Louis, and Chicago. The blues tradition goes hand in hand with the Great Migration as its early indications of the movement. Important Blues stars like BB King, Muddy Waters, and Albert King shared roots in the Mississippi Delta Blues but branched out to their respective regions to create a distinct version of Blues that spoke with that region. My research starts with the Blues because of the Genre’s brutal honesty as it examines African American life at its most vulnerable state at one of its most vulnerable times. So far, my data has tracked the artists’ birthplace, discovery region, and death place.
Despite their commitment to the blues tradition, their trajectory and way of life left these artists in poverty or Los Angeles to record their biggest hits. This layer of my Arc GIS map will tell the story of the Great Migration’s Music: an archive lost in its novelty.