Black Meetings and Tourism

May / June 2017

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Page 21 of 52

S tarting around 1910, African-Americans left the South in droves as part of what became known as the Great Migration. Many historians have divided this migration into two distinct periods. One from 1910 to 1930 when approxi- mately 1.6 million Blacks left mostly rural areas and migrated to northern industrial cities. The Second Great Migration occurred between 1940 and 1970 when an additional 5 million African Americans headed north and west to California. It was an exodus unlike anything seen in American history before or since. Today, a reverse migration has taken hold with African-Americans seeking out Southern locales for myriad reasons from better cost of living to improved quality of life. Those heading South aren't just retirees seeking to reconnect with relatives, they are young, college-educated professionals. One in four newcomers are college educated. Cities like Atlanta: Jackson, MS; Columbia, SC; Memphis, TN; Raleigh, NC; along with the greater Miami/Fort Lauderdale area and Orlando have robust African- American communities made up of these young professionals. This reverse migration trend will continue for the foreseeable future. For meeting planners seeking to connect to Black-owned vendors as part of their event planning, this can only be a win-win. African- American travelers and tourists alike are now more than welcomed in places just a few decades ago seemed inhospitable. The South is breathtakingly beautiful. From its moun- tainous trails to sugary-white sandy beaches and pristine waterways the diversity of geog- raphy is an artists dream. Combined with the cosmopolitan appeal of big city life and its many cultural and family-friendly attractions, the South has truly become the destination of choice for vacations and meetings. African-American influence can be seen every- where. From Civil Rights to music, food to recreation the Black experience is thriving. But it's more than Civil Rights; it's a renaissance of sorts, a recent discovery for many who have found the lure of the American South difficult to resist. BY RUFUS MCKINNEY The 'Behold' statue, Martin Luther King Memorial Center, Atlanta, Georgia 21 B M & T ••• May/June 2017 •••

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