This book builds on a prolific scholarship in the field of Black urban history, particularly that of the Great Migrations, a historic event that saw the mass migrations of eight million people between 1900 and 1970 in one of the greatest population shifts in United States history. Specifically the work examines the migratory, community building and workforce efforts of African Americans who made their way to Houston, Texas, from surrounding farm communities, towns and small cities in eastern Texas and Louisiana between 1900 and 1941. It defines internal migration and agency as viable forms of protest available to people of color in the early twentieth century, especially in the race-conscious South. Relying on themselves and the chain-migration networks of family and friends, migrants decisively abandoned their birthplaces for better wages, quality schools, decent homes, improved lifestyles and a semblance of racial justice in the transformative Bayou City (Houston). Arguably one of the first studies to look exclusively at internal migrations within the South, the work recognizes Houston as an economic and demographic epicenter of importance, one that attracted an estimated 50,000 Blacks in the first half of the century. Most studies investigate the Southern exodus within the Black community, principally highlighting movement to Northern and Western metropolitan areas. The book builds on an impressive body of works by legitimizing interstate and intrastate migrations within the South. Houston and other Southern cities were invaluable—as points of origin and destination—to the Great Migrations, a phenomenon that stood as a catalyst to broad sweeping changes for the group and nation on the whole.
Detroit, Michigan, native Bernadette Pruitt is associate professor of history at Sam Houston State University, where she has been a member of the Department of History since 1996, first as a lecturer and then as a tenure-track instructor. The first African American woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in History at the University of Houston, she obtained her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Texas Southern University, an HBCU in Houston, Texas. Her monograph, The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2013), examines Black internal migration and community building in what ultimately becomes the fourth largest city in the United States. Pruitt’s book is one of the first scholarly attempts to address the Great Migrations to a southern city.
The historian has several new scholarly pursuits. Her second book-length project will examine the origins of Houston’s postwar Black community in the late nineteenth century following the demise of slavery. As well, the scholar hopes to edit a documents book on Houston. The associate professor also hopes to one day write a biography on native Texan Wendell Harold Baker, a World War II veteran, retired chemical engineer, and local civil-rights icon. In addition, Pruitt will coedit an anthology that self-examines African American women historians in Texas. The urban historian is also special editor for the Oxford University Press African American Studies Center Community Spotlight series on Houston, Texas. The scholar has won several awards. Prof. Pruitt is the recipient of the 2014 Ottis Lock Superb Book Award with the East Texas Historical Association. She is also the past recipient several other awards and fellowships, including the University of Illinois at Chicago African American Studies Department postdoctoral fellowship, Huggins-Quarles Award with the Organization of American Historians, the University of Houston African American Studies Dissertation Fellowship, and the Fred White Jr. and Mary M. Hughes Research Fellowships in Texas History with the Texas State Historical Association.
The award-winning historian loves teaching and mentoring. Her current teaching endeavors include the Long Civil Rights Movement, the Great Migrations and Black urban studies, community building, and race relations and ethnicity in the United State and the African Diaspora. She mentors and advises numerous student groups, including Establishing Leadership In and Through Education (ELITE), a program that attempts to retain undergraduate men of color at SHSU. Dr. Pruitt has also served as faculty mentor to four Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate scholars. She advises two student organizations, including the Sigma Phi chapter of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, an organization for which she serves as a member. Until recently Pruitt sat on the National Advisory Board for Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.
The associate professor of history also has a vibrant life outside academe. She has been a member of the Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Texas, for nearly twenty years. An active church member, she serves on the senior usher board, until recently worked as a Sunday school teacher, and teaches preteens and intermediate youths as a church-school teacher. Professor Pruitt also studies Black politics and culture in history and contemporary life. In addition, the history instructor loves researching and enjoying nostalgic horror and science fiction films, as well as enjoys classic 1970s and 1980s family sitcoms and dramas, including Good Times, The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Ties, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and Eight Is Enough. Miss Pruitt, her mother, and a cousin live in Huntsville, Texas.
Date(s) - Feb 7, 2016
10:30 am - 11:30 am