Ain't Got No HomeAmerica's Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left

Ain't Got No HomeAmerica's Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left

Erin Royston Battat

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9781469614021

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press

Abstract

Most scholarship on the mass migrations of African Americans and southern whites during and after the Great Depression treats those migrations as separate phenomena, strictly divided along racial lines. This interdisciplinary work argues instead that we should understand these Depression-era migrations as interconnected responses to the capitalist collapse and political upheavals of the early twentieth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, it shows, writers and artists of both races created migration stories specifically to bolster the black–white Left alliance. Defying rigid critical categories, the author considers a wide variety of media, including literary classics by John Steinbeck and Ann Petry, “lost” novels by Sanora Babb and William Attaway, hobo novellas, images of migrant women by Dorothea Lange and Elizabeth Catlett, popular songs, and histories and ethnographies of migrant shipyard workers. This rereading and recovering of the period's literary and visual culture expands our understanding of the migration narrative by uniting the political and aesthetic goals of the black and white literary Left and illuminating the striking interrelationship between American populism and civil rights.