In the aftermath of the killing last year of George Floyd, Charles Blow had an idea. Black Americans, reasoned the celebrated New York Times columnist, could gain political power not by waiting patiently for white voters to support more Black candidates but by reversing the Great Migration and moving to the South en masse.
In the first census after the American Civil War, Black people in Georgia were almost in the majority. But in 1916 Black Georgians, along with Black people from all over the Southern States, headed north to get away from the deeply rooted racism of the South. By 1970 six million Black Southerners had departed, leaving the Southern states with overwhelming white majorities.
In March 2021 Blow came to Intelligence Squared to explain the arguments he makes in his new book The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto. He argued that if enough African-Americans move south, the demographic balance in the Southern States will be tipped in favour of Black voters and politicians. His new home state of Georgia – he practises what he preaches and left Brooklyn for Atlanta – recently voted for a Democrat presidential candidate and two Democratic Senate candidates, one of whom became the first Black senator in the state’s history. The growing African-American population in Georgia was pivotal in these votes, Blow believes.