*A massive reverse-migration of African Americans to the South from the North and Midwest holds the potential for transforming the region and its politics.
Long a breeding ground for Republicans and conservative ideology, the 11 states of the “old South” have been experiencing an influx of middle class Blacks over the past two decades which is giving the region a new look and a more progressive political makeup.
According to the Census Bureau’s recently released American Community Survey, 16 of the 25 major metropolitan areas with the largest growth in Black population between 2000 and 2009 were located in the South. The biggest gainers in Black population were Atlanta, Georgia and Dallas, Texas. Other big gainers were Houston, Texas, Charlotte, North Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Politically, it was the growth in minority populations (specifically Blacks and Hispanics) which played a major role in propelling Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 as the nation’s first African American president. Obama was able to win such traditionally conservative states as Virginia and North Carolina primarily because of the massive Black voter turnout.
At one point in the early 1940s nearly 80 percent of the nation’s Black population lived in the South. World War II factory jobs in the North and Midwest forced that percentage down to around 60 percent by the 1960s. By 1970, according to the Census Bureau, only 53 percent of African Americans still lived in the South. Currently, the South has 56.8 percent of the nation’s Blacks.
In fact, the Brookings Institute’s William Frey has conducted an analysis of Census Bureau data which shows that since 2000, 75 percent of the growth in Black population has taken place in the South. Politically, the Congressional Black Caucus increased its power in Congress by two members during the recent midterm elections. Both new members came from the South.