The Great Migration and the Democratic Party

Black Voters and the Realignment of American Politics in the 20th Century

Keneshia N. Grant
W.E. B. DuBois Book Awardee, National Conference of Black Political Scientists, 2021
Book Cover

PB: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1746-6
Publication: Feb 20

HC: $74.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1745-9
Publication: Feb 20

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1747-3
Publication: Feb 20

214 pages
5.25 x 8.5
12 tables, 1 figs., 3 halftones, 1 maps

Examining the political impact of Black migration on politics in three northern cities from 1915 to 1965

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Where Black people live has long been an important determinant of their ability to participate in political processes. The Great Migration significantly changed the way Democratic Party elites interacted with Black communities in northern cities, Detroit, New York, and Chicago. Many white Democratic politicians came to believe the growing pool of Black voters could help them reach their electoral goals—and these politicians often changed their campaign strategies and positions to secure Black support. Furthermore, Black migrants were able to participate in politics because there were fewer barriers to Black political participations outside the South.

The Great Migration and the Democratic Party frames the Great Migration as an important economic and social event that also had serious political consequences. Keneshia Grant created one of the first listings of Black elected officials that classifies them based on their status as participants in the Great Migration. She also describes some of the policy/political concerns of the migrants.

The Great Migration and the Democratic Party lays the groundwork for ways of thinking about the contemporary impact of Black migration on American politics.


An impressive work of political scholarship, The Great Migration and the Democratic Party captures the political agency of Black migrants to the urban North. Tracing Black political activity across Chicago, Detroit, and New York City, Grant shows how migrants eagerly grasped the possibility of place by engaging in strategic coalition building with local parties. Political activism, in turn, led to the election or appointment of Black women and men to local and state offices, giving political voice and influence to the new migrants and, in some cases, to the Black Americans disenfranchised in the South. The possibility of the Black ‘balance of power’ vote and the activism of Black officials created the northern urban roots of the Democratic Party’s twentieth-century realignment. Grant’s careful historical scholarship and political analysis provide a clear and systematic breakdown of the Great Migration and its consequences.
Kimberley Johnson, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at the Wagner School, New York University, and author of Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown

Scholars have long analyzed the Great Migration’s social and economic effects on U.S. cities. In this well-documented study, Keneshia Grant goes where few scholars have gone before, by focusing on the Great Migration’s significant political consequences on U.S. cities. Using in-depth case studies and historical analysis, Grant demonstrates how the massive influx of Black migrants from the South transformed local political regimes in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. She paints a vivid portrait of the political agency of Black migrants from the South, including many who won election to local, state, and federal offices in their adopted cities.
Marion Orr, Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science, Brown University, and co-editor of Latino Mayors: Political Change in the Postindustrial City (Temple).

"(A) useful and informative resource for a widely diverse audience. Above all, it reads like a novel.... Readers of The Great Migration and the Democratic Party will gain new insights about the evolution of the Democratic Party and thereby a greater understanding of why the party operates as it does today. Members of both major political parties who read this book will understand why and how political parties recruit, retain, and support African American voters. Finally, this groundbreaking book will spark debates about several important minority, urban, and partisan political issues."
Perspectives on Politics

Table of Contents


1. Party Change and the Great Migration
2. Black Migration in American History
3. Detroit
4. New York
5. Chicago

Additional Sources

About the Author(s)

Keneshia N. Grant is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University.