Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Miles E. Richardson


Between 1910 and 1970, African Americans moved out of South in one of the largest movements in human history. Today, many of these migrants, and their descendents, are coming home. Some estimates hold that more than nine million black Southerners left the South for new lives in the North and West. The migration reached its peak in the 1950s, and began to slow in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, African Americans began returning to the American South. With major shifts in the United States economy, a change that began in the early 1970s, jobs began to leave the traditional industrial centers in the North and West; African Americans were not far behind. This study looks at one region to which many Africans have fled, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. Regions like the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta have been largely ignored in black return migration studies. Much of the work that has been done to document the return migration of blacks to the South has focused on the South's urban areas. Scholars have argued that the economic dynamism of the South has provided an important pull factor for prospective black return migrants. What has been neglected is the fact that there is also a significant return of African Americans to the rural South, a region of chronic economic stagnation. The Delta, as natives call it, is a just such a region. While the Census Bureau collects information on its long forms that can lead the researcher to a better understanding of African American migration processes and place attachments, the data is imperfect and can only provide the backbone of understanding. In an attempt to dig beneath the available data, I employ ethnographic methodology in this study. The American South is a region that has helped shape the identity of African Americans, and the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta is an important part of that whole. Ultimately, the dissertation focuses on why blacks are moving back into the Mississippi Delta, and how they view their home in the Delta as a place to reclaim.