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Griffin, Farah Jasmine. “Who set you flowin’?”: The African America Migration Narrative. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
This now classic, expansive study repositions the history of African-American migration from the South to North as a central theme in African-American cultural production. Focusing primarily on literature and music, Griffin examines the work of a variety of African-American artists, including Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Billie Holliday, Stevie Wonder, Arrested Development and numerous others. In surveying their work, Griffin concludes that this migration theme has four essential elements (according to which her book is structured): (1) movement of “the migrant” from the South to the North, (2) an in-depth description of the migrant’s “initial confrontation” with the northern urban space, (3) the migrant’s attempt to situate himself within the urban landscape followed by/combined with movements to create a “self-defined” safe-space to combat the detrimental effects of urbanity, and (4) a recognition of the “possibilities or limitations” of that landscape, which often includes a psychic desired or actualized re-migration south (3). Griffin’s detailed inquiry reviews the often-overlooked difficulties African-Americans have historically faced in urban environments, while chronicling the dialectical relationship many African-American writers, singers, painters, and thinkers have discerned between the American (urban) landscape and identity. [E. White]