Other suns: Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia was the site of my closest personal connections to the Great Migration. In the 1940s and ’50s, my father’s brothers and then his mother left Wilson for Philly, and every summer we hit the highway for a week or so at my grandmother’s house on Wyalusing Avenue. Her block was filled with migrants from Georgia and North Carolina and Virginia, and her broader social circle included relatives who had settled in other parts of the city. 

(I lived in Philadelphia for a few years in the 1990s, in both West Philly and Germantown. By then, many of the first generation of Southern migrants had passed on, but their legacy is firm. The fourth generation of my eldest uncle’s offspring is growing up in North Philadelphia right now.)

Pennsylvania’s plethora of on-line records makes for easy documentation of a long list of Wilson County natives who sought new lives in the Keystone State. Not surprisingly, almost all landed in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or their suburbs.

Hattie Henderson Ricks and husband Jonah C. Ricks, a Nash County, N.C., native, on the porch of their home at 5549 Wyalusing Avenue in West Philadelphia, late 1950s.

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