"And They All Came From New Orleans": Louisiana Migrants in Los Angeles--Interpretations of Race, Place, and Identity
Migrations from one location to another can create the need to explain identities that originated in one region and do not quite translate to the new place's racial structure. Empirically, we know little about racial and ethnic identity construction processes for American-born persons with Black ancestry who were part of the Great Migration in this country. My dissertation analyzes the construction of racial, ethnic, and place identities among first- and second-generation Louisiana migrants who came to Los Angeles during the 1940s to the 1970s. Using data from 47 in-depth life history interviews, I argue that racial and ethnic identity in this case is a product of the interplay between local and national racial structures and meanings, collective memory and nostalgia, and place-based interaction. I find that migrants established an enclave that supported collective memory and collective nostalgia for Louisiana through Louisiana-centered interaction. This contributed to attachments and identifications associated with place that were used to modify the Black and Creole racial and ethnic identities of migrants in Los Angeles. Most of the migrants in this study constructed Black identities modified with Creole and Louisiana-based identities. A smaller proportion of migrants had Creole-only, or Black-only identities, but Louisiana-based identities were important for these migrants as well. In addition to the factors associated with racialization, identities were constructed using a combination of ancestry, visible ethnic and racial markers (such as surnames, phenotype, and culture), and place-based factors. The study makes several contributions to the literatures on race, ethnicity, place, Black identities, the Great Migration, and Louisiana Creoles.