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The North By South seminar at Kenyon College is a hands on academic endeavor designed to explore the African-American Great Migration from southern cities and countryside to Northern cities beginning in the early part of the 20th Century. More specifically, as a class we looked for cultural connections between these two regions, ultimately hoping to find what Robert Ferris Thompson terms “Flashes of the Spirit”—gleanings of ancient African culture still evident in African American culture today. In seminar we received an intellectual foundation for our research reading Thompson’s book, as well as several other sources that provided the background for us to understand the forces at work in the migration and in the specific locations we studied. This year, we concentrated on the effects of the Great Migration in the “Steel Cities” of Birmingham, Alabama and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The crucial part of the class was the historical research we did in each city. We worked in four different groups, concentrating on the role of four different components of black culture in each city. In groups, we studied Newspapers, Dance, Music and Funeral practices. We discovered as we worked and traveled around the city that we kept bumping into each other, and that our research kept overlapping. Upon reflection, we realized that our research centered around three themes: the body, the voice, and the human spirit. The black populations in Birmingham and Pittsburgh, each in their own ways, utilized these elements to create a unique “soul” expressing itself as one community. These themes structure our website and we hope that you enjoy your experience here!
North By South