In 1995, Farah Jasmine Griffin’s foundational “Who Set You Flowin’?”: The African-American Migration Narrative argued that the migration narrative and movement itself played a definitive role in African American literary production across the twentieth century. Citing Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), Griffin associated the movement of African Americans across space with the liquid (blood and water) metaphor of flow. Almost twenty years later, a new set of literary, cultural, and historical studies is bringing attention to the literature produced during the Great Migration period. Offering readings of literary and cultural texts informed by the context of institutions, from the American Red Cross to the Communist Party and the CIA, these texts deepen an ongoing conversation about the implications of the physical movement of black bodies across space and the relationship between black creative practice and social movements.

In Backwater Blues, Richard...

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