“Knocking on the Big City’s Door": Sociology and Southern Migrants to Chicago in the Early Twentieth Century

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Bain, Aja
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Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis examines the sociological response to Southern migrants in Chicago during the period of explosive outmigration from the 1920s through the 1950s. Sociologists navigated a complex framework of race, class, and region to study and aid these migrants. The University of Chicago’s influence as a hub for sociological research made the Second City a highly visible and important migrant destination which raised intriguing questions about the crossing of invisible borders within America during this time of rapid social and political change.
The thesis provides an overview of the Southern migrant/ immigrant comparison, analysis of the relevant sociological studies, and a particular focus on Lewis M. Killian, a unique Chicago sociologist who challenged the prevailing migrant discourse. Using sources such as sociological publications, academic organizations, government-funded studies, migrant memoirs and popular culture, and papers from “migrant centers,” this work presents a comprehensive analysis of the intersections of sociology and Southerners living under the national microscope.
Appalachia, Chicago, Migrants, Sociology, South, University of Chicago