Black Migration in a White City: Power, Privilege, and Exclusion in Cuban America

Awarded Scholars:
Devyn S. Benson, Davidson College
Danielle Clealand, University of Texas-Austin
Project Date:
Nov 2020
Award Amount:

Afro-Cuban exiles and immigrants faced discrimination in housing, schooling, and employment when they arrived in Miami in the 1960s, as well as in the post-civil rights 1970s and beyond. Cubans are often viewed as “model minority” immigrants who achieved success in the U.S., but lighter-skinned Cubans who achieved access to whiteness amidst segregation, marginalized their darker co-ethnics and policed the boundaries of a Cubanness they defined as “white.” Historian Devyn Benson and political scientist Danielle Clealand will analyze oral histories, census, and archival data from Afro-Cubans to examine their socioeconomic status, educational trajectories, political attitudes, and voting behaviors. They hypothesize that the exclusion and othering Afro-Cubans encountered from white Cubans contributed to differential socioeconomic and educational trajectories for black Cubans, but has also fostered a consciousness about blackness that has contributed to political attitudes and voting behavior that differ from those of white Cubans. The study will examine the strategies Afro-Cubans have used to succeed; how they have been excluded from or included in the ethnic enclave; what their experiences with housing, schooling, and employment discrimination tell us about black immigrant opportunities; and how race has impacted their voting behaviors and politics. Preliminary findings show that black Cubans are less likely to own homes, build savings and have a lower net worth when compared to white Cubans. The PIs will map the racial exclusion of black Cubans, while demonstrating how racism matters within Latino communities. Benson and Clealand plan to disseminate the findings in a book manuscript and they will also create a public digital archive for their research data.


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