Published Date

January 1, 2000

Resource Type

For Departments, For the Classroom, Program of Study

This resource was developed as part of the Migration and the American South project.


Mule and Man

Charting Migration

In this section students will develop estimates of the number of people migrating into or out of Vance, Granville, and Warren counties. Some simple statistical computations will be performed here. Use a calculator.

1. Examine Table 1 in the “Population Statistics” unit. During what decades and in what counties did total population decline? When did population growth experience a significant rebound and in what counties? Which county showed the most change?

2. Examine Table 2 and 3 in the “Population Statistics” unit, and develop a brief description of the decline and/or growth of white and black populations during this period. You might want to quantify the rate of growth or decline by figuring the percentage increase or decrease for each county over the period covered by the table. Which county showed the most change?

Estimating Migration

Population growth or decline tells us some important things, but it doesn’t tell us much about how many people are migrating into or out of a county. A more accurate assessment of population changes must take into account births and deaths too. For example, a county’s recorded population might increase by 1000 residents over a decade. But suppose the county’s births exceeded its deaths by 5000; this would mean that although the county’s population increased by 1000, many of its residents left the county (at least 4000), and the county actually was experiencing a net loss of 4000 people over the decade. Even with birth and death information in hand, we must still be cautious about generalizing about migration; without additional information we cannot be sure if, for example, the county’s entire population wasn’t replaced by a new group of people. (This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds; genocide and it’s modern version, “ethnic cleansing”, sometimes result in dramatic changes in the composition of a population.) These caveats aside, knowing what the net loss or gain is does tell us that migration into or out of an area is taking place and gives us some notion of the scope of it. The simplest way to estimate a net lose or gain over a decade is as follows.

Granville County figures for 1940 and 1950 from Population Statistics, Table 1 are used here.

Step One

1940 690 (births) – 265 (deaths) = 425
1950 835 (births) – 263 (deaths) = 572
You now have the annual “natural” population gain for 1940 and 1950. The “nautral” population gain is the result of the number of births exceeding the number of deaths.

Step Two

Estimate the ten-year “natural” population gain for the other years in the decade.

425 + 572=997
997/2=498 This gives you an estimate of the yearly average gain in population over the decade.

Step Three

To arrive at an estimate of the population gain for the decade multiply 498 by 10.
498 * 10 (the number of years in a decade)=4980
The figure 4980 is the estimated natural gain in the Granville County population for the decade 1940-1950.

Step Four

Population of Granville in 1950 (Table 1) 31793
Population of Granville in 1940 (Table 1) 29344
31793-29344=2449 2449 is the population increase for 1940-1950
Since the estimated natural gain exceeded the reported gain in population, subtract 2449 from the estimated natural gain for 1940-1950.

Granville County thus experienced a “net loss” from 1940-1950 of 2531 people. We now know at least 2531 people migrated out of Granville County in that decade and possibly more (Remember, we don’t now how many people migrated into the county. If, for example, 1000 people migrated into the county during that decade, then 3531 migrated out of the county).

If Granville had actually lost total population from one census year to the next, to get the “net loss” figure, you would subtract the 1950 population from the 1940 population and add the result to the figure you derived from performing steps 1, 2, & 3.

The net percentage loss Granville County experienced can be found by dividing the net loss by the 1940 population.

Granville County thus lost a significant portion (almost 10%) of its population to out-migration during the 1940s.

Computing the “Net Gain”

If a county experiences a “net gain” in population, the actual recorded population gain for the decade will be larger than the estimated natural gain figure indicating that people are moving into the county at a greater rate than people are leaving the county. The difference between the two figures (subtract the natural gain figure from the recorded gain) is the net gain. To compute the net percentage gain, once again you divide the net gain by the recorded population at the beginning of the decade.

3. Select a county and compute the net lose or gain figures and the percentage of lose or gain for each decade. Can you “eyeball” the data from the other two counties and get some sense of how much population they truly lost or gained due to migration?

4. Write a paragraph or short essay in which you generalize about migration out of and into these counties. (Discuss the scope and size of the out-migration, when it peaked and when it declined. What county was most affected by it? Discuss the scope and size of the migration into the area and when it began. Which counties most benefited?)

The Transformation of Agriculture

In this unit students will explore what “pushed” and “pulled” migrants out of Vance, Granville, and Warren counties.

  1. Examine tables 1, 2, and 3 in the “Agricultural Statistics” section. What can you say about the number of farms and the acreage devoted to farming in the three county area up until 1950? What about after 1950?
  2. Read the “Ed Currin” interview (“Interviews” section), examine tables 5, 9 and 10 in the “Agricultural Statistics,” and examine the pictures of traditional and modern farming in the “Images of Farming” section. Answer the following:
    1. What powered the “traditional” farm? What powered the “modern” farm ?
    2. What evidence do you find of cooperation (as opposed to the modern ideal of economic competition) between people in the “traditional” farming community? Despite this cooperation, traditional farming communities in the South were often very rigidly divided along class and racial lines with the more affluent white landowners holding the bulk of power, wealth, and status. What evidence do you find of this in the Ed Currin interview and in the Fred Wilkins farm pictures (read the comments attached to some of the pictures) in the “Images of Farming” section?
  3. Describe changes sharecropping underwent between 1935-1978 (see “Agricultural Statistics,” Table 4). How does this compare to region-wide trends discussed in the “Overview“?
  4. What did sharecroppers do when they left farming and where did they go? See the interviews with the Renns, Preston Mosley, and John Pierce in the “Interviews” section. (Remember, however, that these interviews are a limited source of information; more interviews or perhaps government statistics on the new occupations and new homes of sharecroppers–if they were available–would give you more data to support your generalizations. Be careful, therefore, to qualify your answer to this question.)
  5. As sharecropping declined and the overall number of farms plummeted, the biggest changes in farming occurred among black farmers. Describe what you found in “Agricultural Statistics,” Table 6. Why do you think blacks left farming in greater numbers than whites?
  6. While the number of farms, farmers, farm workers, and the acreage devoted to farming declined tremendously, production of the major cash crop–tobacco–did not (See “Agricultural Statistics,” Table 7). You do not have most of the facts, but you should be able to come up with a hypothesis as to why this was so. Write out your hypothesis.
  7. Write a short essay explaining what “pushed” people out of farming and “pulled” them into other occupations and to other regions of the country during the period 1930s-1960s. (In writing this essay, review your answers to the questions above and take a look at the tables on the “Business, Industry, and Government” page.)

A Transforming Region

In this unit you will explore how and why the tide of migration began to shift in the 1960s and 1970s.

  1. In the 1960s and 1970s new employment opportunities began opening up in the area, particularly in Vance and Granville counties. Using data from Table 1 and 2 and information gleaned from the links in the “Business, Industry, and Government” section, briefly summarize what kinds of jobs increased, where (which counties), and when. In your summary provide some figures (perhaps as a percentage increase in different occupations?) on the changes in the job market.
  2. What kind of evidence do you find in the “Business, Industry, and Government” tables to indicate that Henderson, the only large town in Vance County, continued to be the major market (stores and shops) center for the region?
  3. Read the Eva Clayton interview. What was the Soul City experiment, what was it designed to do, and why did it fail according to Congresswoman Clayton? Does she believe it was a total failure? Explain. (You might also take a look at the “Soul City Today” photographs.)
  4. While a more diversified economy that offered more private and public nonagricultural jobs may have been responsible for stopping the out-migration, can we say this transformation is what drew people to the area from other places? Look at the interviews with Preston MosleyRonel Cook and Donna Dodson. What do these interviews suggest as to why some people came to the area? Remember, this is what we call “anecdotal” evidence; three other interviews might contain very different responses.
  5. Develop an assessment of the economic changes that have swept this region over the last forty years based on your reading of the sources that you have used thus far and Tables 4 and 5 in the “Population Statistics” section. Remember, an assessment is an evaluation–you are identifying positive and negative changes based on your values and how you see things. Ask yourself, “what was lost and what was gained; who benefited and who did not.” Remember also, as you are writing your assessment, that the “quality of life” is not only measured in terms of income and job opportunities (refer to the Cook and Dodson interviews for examples of this).