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This article examines the discursive and material presence of the “rural” in the “urban,” relating it to the historical and contemporary production of African American culture and identity. By using the case of the Great Migration, it discusses how African Americans negotiated and shaped their urban surroundings and formed individual and collective identities by drawing on their rural, southern histories. It then suggests the relevance of these broad historical processes to contemporary analyses and interventions in the urban environment of Baltimore, Maryland. This article challenges assumptions that obscure the agency of urban residents in the formation of identity and the establishment of community. It demonstrates ways in which the historical movement from rural South to urban North was accompanied by a range of cultural resources that have been adapted, discarded, or reconstructed.
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Keywords: African Americans; Baltimore; Great Migration; environment; rural-urban

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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