The Southern Great Migration to Chicago, Black and White

In This Affluent Society captures the Great Migration to Chicago with archival footage and interviews, including former residents of “Hillbilly Heaven,” better known as Uptown.

One of my favorite subjects in Chicago history is the parallels between black and white Southern migrants—the Great Migration, and the smaller but quite similar migration from Appalachia in the postwar era. While poking around for stuff on Uptown I stumbled across an old documentary, In This Affluent Society, about the war on poverty in the rural South and in major cities. The central portion focuses on Chicago, and features Anndrena Belcher, an eastern Kentucky native who grew up in Uptown:

In an effort to fit in, Anndrena became what she calls ‘bilingual.’ Her definition is different than what one might expect. “I speak Appalachian English and mainstream Standarized English.” The Appalachian is what she grew up speaking and what her family spoke. The move that her family made to Chicago introduced her to a ‘new’ English.

There’s some excellent archival video of Uptown and the West Side, and Belcher has a just about perfect example of a central Appalachian accent.



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