Note from the Editor
The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Here is the new format we have been talking about. We hope people like it. We also hope that subscribers notice quickly the changes in operations that our new relationship with Cambridge University Press will bring about. In this issue, meanwhile, Jack Blocker, in a revised version of his presidential address from April 2010, provides a broad perspective on a fundamental methodological challenge to social and demographic historians, which is that migration is easy to trace in a general way but
... ard to research in detail and explain with precision. Self-contained in terms of sources, the community-based case study is the simplest genre of social history to organize, but by definition it gives insufficient emphasis to migration. The earliest scholars of post-Reconstruction African American migrations, starting with W. E. B. Du Bois and his Philadelphia studies, attempted to develop methodologies that would connect people to their origins, document the multiple factors behind decisions to migrate, evoke the manifold experiences of migrants, and compare migrants to non-migrants. For reasons that Blocker considers, insights and methodological innovations of that earlier generation of social scientists inconsistently informed research over the next century. As a result, models used to explain the Great Migrations are still probably too rough and analyses still tentative. Nevertheless, historians have helped in fixing in people's minds the reality that these migrations played an immense role in forming modern American society. Blocker's own research underscores the need to pay attention to the experiences of black people who migrated to small cities throughout the country, at times even from larger ones in defiance of simplistic versions of the social-science model of step migration. County historical societies throughout the Midwest, for example, regularly include small-city black oral history projects, in which people describe their decisions, perceptions, and lives.