CALL TO HOME: African Americans Reclaim the Rural South by Carol Stack

CALL TO HOME: African Americans Reclaim the Rural South

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Anthropologist Stack (Univ. of California, Berkeley; All Our Kin, 1973) examines--approvingly--the migration of African-Americans back to the rural South. For many decades African-Americans fled that region in large numbers for the promise of better jobs and less discrimination in the urban North. But the tide turned in 1970, and by 1990 half a million blacks had returned home to the South. Stack probed this phenomenon in several impoverished counties in North and South Carolina and concludes that it is the call of home and family that is bringing blacks back, not the promise of better jobs or better treatment. She has written not an ethnographic study but a record of the lives of several families she came to know well, interspersed with wider observations. The book is episodic, and it is sometimes difficult to follow the various, tangled familial strands. Because Call to Home is so deliberately nonscientific and anecdotal, one cannot know how relevant the author's conclusions are to the general population of return migrants. But Stack has wonderful stories to tell about poor people immensely richer in family and communal ties than most Americans--those who ""lack a place to go home to."" Her families, especially the women, possess enormous reserves of courage and perseverance; they know the real meaning of ""family values,"" and they know that ""family life is a resource, sometimes the only readily available resource that poor people can turn to in times of trouble."" With the skills they learned up North, and with the ""social capital"" provided by family and community, these migrants are shaking up their old-new southern homes. Stack carefully records the longings and hopes of African-Americans moved to leave northern cities and return to the rural Carolinas. She is most successful in making those particular longings relevant to a far broader spectrum of Americans.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0465008089
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Basic