CNN’s John Blake discusses the political power Black Southerners wielded in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election and the Georgia Senate run-offs. Black Southerners including recent transplants are changing the political landscape of the deep South and wielding a power denied their parents and grandparents. The Burton Wire‘s founder & editor-in-chief Nsenga K. Burton is featured in the article. Check it out.
There was one place, though, that her mother dreaded visiting: the Deep South.
Her mother saw it as a forbidding land of lynch mobs and “Whites Only” signs, where Black people went missing just for trying to vote. Burton’s mother grew up in segregated Virginia and was so mistrustful of the South she once dissuaded her daughter from vacationing in Atlanta and encouraged her to visit the Bahamas instead.
“My mother sent me out of the country before she sent me to the Deep South,” Burton says.
Burton, who is 48, just got a little payback. After moving to Atlanta from Maryland six years ago, she became part of a crucial bloc of Black voters who helped Democrats seize control of the US Senate. They mobilized in record numbers to elect the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Black man from Savannah, and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish man from Atlanta.
Burton thought of all the Black people like her who migrated from elsewhere to Georgia to reclaim political power that was taken away from their parents and grandparents, who fled the Jim Crow South in fear.
“It’s poetic justice,” says Burton, a cultural critic and founder of The Burton Wire, which produces stories on race, class, and gender. “The descendants of the people who were pushed out of the South, who had no power, who knew they could go missing if they tried to vote, have returned and they’re making it work for them. It’s been a long time coming.”
The stunning election results in Georgia have rightly been attributed to the relentless work of voting-rights organizers such as Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial candidate whose group, Fair Fight, is credited with registering 800,000 new voters in Georgia.
But those victories also happened because of a series of personal decisions made years ago by little-known transplants like Burton. They are part of what’s called “The New Great Migration,” and without them, Warnock and Ossoff wouldn’t have stood a chance.
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