Post World War II Black Migration, Historical Memory, Community Building and Activism in the Late 20th Century

Document Type


Summary Description

The dissertation "Making a New Haven: Post World War II Black Migration, Historical Memory, Community Building and Activism in the Late 20th Century" explores the impact of Southern black migrants on New Haven's African American community. It highlights how migrants transferred historical memory and cultural traditions, focusing on the role of family and community networks, and Southern-born educators in fostering civic responsibility and leadership among black youth. The work connects the cultural legacy of the South to New Haven's responses to sociopolitical and economic challenges, underscoring the continuity of black historical consciousness and its influence on community activism and political engagement.


By 1970 African Americans constituted approximately 35 percent of New Haven’s population – nearly ten times its size in 1930. By 1965, nearly 75 percent of the city’s black heads of households reported being born in the South. Making a New Haven argues that black Southerners migrated to New Haven with a historical memory, anchored by an awareness of the centrality of slavery and racial segregation in the African American experience, along with a set of cultural traditions which influenced the African American community’s analyses of and responses to the late twentieth century “urban crisis”. This dissertation excavates the ways in which Southern born blacks facilitated the transference of historical memory and cultural traditions in the counter public spaces of family and community life, and the public spaces of community based organizations and the New Haven Public School system. Making a New Haven examines the ways in which historical memory and cultural traditions inherited from black Southern migrants informed the late twentieth century community building and activist activities of young African American activists and leaders. Making a New Haven is a departure from the popular narrative of urban crisis, as it narrates New Haven’s Southern diasporic community’s efforts to arm its youth with historical consciousness and the resources necessary to impact the socio-political and economic challenges confronting the African American community.

Category Tags

Racial Justice and Racism; Immigration; Activism and Advocacy; Education; Law, Policy, and Decision-Making

New Haven Neighborhood

New Haven (All); Newhallville

Supporting Teacher/Faculty Member

Dr. Aimee Cox