Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

Committee Chairperson

Michael Zeitler

Committee Member 1

Iris Lancaster

Committee Member 2

Charlene T. Evans,

Committee Member 3

Carla Brailey


• African American women • Community and African American Women • Safe Spaces • The Great Migration


Abstract This project closely examines the unique challenges African American women faced as migrants from the rural South to the urban North during the Great Migration and particularly how community and safe spaces were necessary for survival. This article will focus on the literary works of The Street by Ann Petry, The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor, and Jazz by Toni Morrison to specifically analyze the migrant stories of African American women. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is used as a non-fiction anchor text to compare and contrast the fictitious accounts alongside the non-fiction accounts. Through the lens of New Historicism and Gender Critical theory, I will analyze the impact of the Great Migration and the effects on African American women who have migrated North and what the works say about oppression as a result of race and gender. I argue that intra-racial misogyny, economic barriers due to both race and gender, and sexual violence towards women appear as a common thread throughout each of these novels as a unique part of the migrant African American woman’s experience; however, women that are the most successful are not only strongly connected to their community but they also have a protected space outside of the surveillance of others. The promise of the North comes into direct conflict with the hopes and dreams of African American women due to the intersections of race and gender. Hopes and dreams are often deferred, but their spirits are not broken. All three texts are written by African American women and express different experiences from multiple points of view. They demonstrate both successes and defeats for Black women as a result of the Great Migration.