Somalis in the Neo-South

African Immigration, Politics and Race

by Dorian Brown Crosby (Author)
©2020 Textbook XVIII, 312 Pages


As demographics change and the southern American region grows more multicultural, clashes between mentalities and contemporary population realties increase. Somalis in the Neo-South: African Immigration, Politics and Race offers a balanced and insightful look at Somalis in the southern United States. Politically centered, it is a thought-provoking book that presents an essential and positive alternative to the familiar portrayal of Somalis in the United States as terrorists. It explains the U.S. resettlement process and illuminates the civic engagement and entrepreneurship of Somalis in Clarkston, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables and Figure
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1 From East to West: The Resettlement of Somalis in the United States
  • 2 The Southeast: Context for the Research
  • 3 Grounded Theory: Explaining the Journey to the Theory
  • 4 Engendering This Study’s Grounded Theory
  • 5 The Politics of It All
  • Conclusion
  • Index


This book draws on over 20 years of affiliation with the Somali community in Clarkston, Georgia, and the resettlement network there. In the late 1990s, I was introduced to the community while in graduate school, completing my dissertation. My Somali friend and co-worker at a Clarkston resettlement agency was the cultural liaison who introduced me to the Somali community that embraced me and my research.

After September 11, 2001, negative media portrayals of Somalis as terrorists and pirates increased. The criminalization of all Somalis perplexed me because the Somalis I knew were the opposite of the global and domestic stereotypes. I thought it was important for others to know that most Somalis are kind, peaceful, generous, hard-working, and grateful for the opportunity to begin a new life in the United States. I also knew that settling into the southeast was challenging for them.

The population of the southeastern region continues to expand and diversify. Changing demographics and population shifts are affecting state politics. However, specific sectors of society, some elected officials, and public policies resist the diversification. As a political scientist, I thought it was necessary to empirically examine my observations of the Clarkston Somalis’ political activities in comparison with one of the southeastern states with the next largest Somali population because research on the political participation of Somalis in the southeast region is scant. I also wanted to examine how Somali communities in the southeast were integrating amid the current hostile political climate.

Writing this book during the first three years of the Trump administration presented challenges, because at every stage, news or politics against Somalis added to the negativity I was combatting. Thus, I felt even more compelled to present something positive that underscored Somalis’ humanity. Likewise, I also wanted to draw awareness to the plight of Somalis as African refugees resettled in the United States. Chronicling their sojourns from displacement to resettlement in their words is important because global and U.S. media rarely mention African refugees. Hopefully, this book inspires awareness, education, and advocacy on behalf of Somalis and other African refugees who are among the millions of forcibly displaced people.


This book exists because of the generosity of time, consideration and support provided by a vast number of people to whom I am incredibly grateful. I am indebted to my colleague Richard Benson II, in the Education Department at Spelman College, for your foresight, encouragement, and support to write this book. Thank you so much for starting me down the path that led to the wonderful publishing team at Peter Lang Publishing. I am grateful to Richard Greggory Johnson III and Chris Meyers, who believed in the project immediately. To my series editor Michelle Smith, I sincerely appreciate your commitment to my book.

I owe a great debt to Elzbieta Godziak, William Boone, Claudia Nelson, and Cawo M. Abdi for taking time from your hectic schedules to review draft chapters of the manuscript. Your comments were critical in moving the work forward with clarity and conviction. Thank you also for the conversations that helped me think through my ideas. Special thanks to Dianna Shandy for your contributions in helping forge the direction and title of the project in its early stages. Your generosity of ideas is greatly appreciated. I must also mention Sekou Franklin. Thank you for sharing your Tennessee resources, knowledge, and most importantly-your time. To Shenita Brazelton, thank you for your assistance and willingness to edit chapters. You always come through.

I offer special thanks to the dozens of people in my Spelman community for always being there in various capacities. Hard roads are more easily traveled when you have friends and advocates. I extend the deepest gratitude to my colleague Danielle Dickens for assisting with configuring the central components of this book. Words cannot express how thankful I am for your eyes and ears as the grounded theory emerged, and for reviewing the theory’s draft chapter. To Gloria Wade Gayles, thank you for supporting me before, during, and after the inception of this project. You were the spiritual compass that kept my heart and mind working in harmony throughout this venture. I am honored by and grateful for your guidance.

To all my incredible colleagues, in the Department of Political Science, Tinaz Pavri, Fatemeh Shafiei, Unislawa Williams, Robert Brown, and Desiree Pedescleaux, and our award winning administrative assistant, Ms. Felicia Rawls, thank you for your continuous support. I am especially grateful to my mentor, Marilyn A. Davis, and Kasahun Woldemariam, for reading draft chapters and providing such helpful comments. To my mentor Jeanne T. Meadows, you paved my road in international relations and nurtured my fascination with the cultures and governments of the world, which gave me the lens to see refugees. For this and more, thank you.

In addition to my department, I am incredibly grateful to Provost Sharon Davies, Myra Burnett, and Johnella Butler for granting me the time necessary to research and complete this book. I extend enormous gratitude to Cynthia Neal Spence for championing and funding my social justice work on and off campus.

I am grateful to all my students for choosing me to help facilitate your educational journeys. To my research assistant, Majesty Houston, thank you for your keen eye, commitment, and superb aid in completing the book. Cheers to my graduate mentee Janita Heslup Bah. I sincerely appreciate you for connecting me to the Somali Nashville community. Your constant enthusiasm was refreshing.

Thank you is not enough to express my great appreciation to my family and friends for their patience, understanding, and unconditional love as I completed this time consuming yet meaningful project. I am particularly grateful to my talented sister-friend Johnette Iris Stubbs for the fantastic book cover. Thank you for sharing your art with me. Our collaboration was a serious yet gratifying matter.

I am especially grateful to my dear parents, Julian Cecil and Dorothy Clark Brown, for your love, wisdom, prayers, encouragement, and support. Thank you for planting the seeds of social justice in me. I hope they have sprouted well. To my husband (who I affectionally call my hubager), thank you for enduring the book’s occupation of my time. I appreciate your review of my chapters to ease my perfectionist mind. You were and always are tremendously helpful and supportive. Also, I am forever grateful to you for driving me to my site visits and sharing in the research along with me. Exploring new cultures is what we do. I am grateful we got to know the Nashville community together.

In closing, this book would not exist without the courageous Somali participants in Clarkston, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee. Writing this book during the first three years of the Trump administration presented challenges that you endured to ensure your words and experiences were truthfully conveyed. Thank you. In Clarkston, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee, I am especially grateful to my cultural liaisons, Somalis who met with me, shared meals with me, welcomed me into their homes and places of business, introduced me to other Somalis in the community, drove me around the community, and simply conversed with me, but did not want to participate in the study. Indeed, I have immeasurable gratitude to all who gave their time and entrusted me with their forced sojourn and resettlement experiences.

You are greatly appreciated.


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I was born in a city called Kismayo, which is like 500 kilometers South of Mogadishu. I went to college and got an education in Somalia. When we got a chance, we used to go all the way to the American Consulate toward CNN because we had a vision about America. I hoped one day I would go to that place. Because America, the way we see in Somalia was like, if you get that, you get the world. It was a place everybody was thinking about. Day one. What I used to think all the time was, when I finish school, I’m going to apply somewhere in America. I used to think about the scholarship I might have one day. I will get to go to school in America. And that’s the first thing I started. I did it. I went to Tennessee State University here. But before I got to that point, this Civil War happened and everybody fled somewhere. We ran away. And that’s what happened.1Samakaab, Nashville, Tennessee

And it comes with the sense of being invisible. When you’re black you’re invisible. Like for example, in the early 1990s … waves of refugees that got settled in Nashville, both Muslims, but different colors. The Kurds and the Somalis in Nashville. Now, the press will mention something about the Kurds being the largest refugee population that lives in Nashville, Tennessee. But the local media won’t say the same thing about or won’t even mention Somalis. So, it comes with that invisibility of being black. But I think the political establishment in Nashville ←1 | 2→gets it. People now know this community. Political candidates have to not only ask for our vote but where our Somali needs are and bring them to the table. And that comes with developing civic leaders who are engaged or giving people a tool box with a tool in it where they can use those tools to the advantage of the community.—Dalmar, Nashville, Tennessee

Samakaab’s statement reveals the triumphs and travails of living in Somalia, fleeing Somalia, living in a refugee camp, applying for, and receiving U.S. resettlement, and ultimately realizing the dream of completing his United States (U.S.) education goals formalized in Somalia. Dalmar’s statement highlights the xenophobia, Islamophobia, white nationalists, racial, citizenship status, class continent origin, and other prejudices Somali refugees face as they transition from urban areas or camps in their refugee host countries into their new lives in the U.S. southeast.

National, state, and local politics seem to reflect President Trump’s perceived biased rhetoric. Prejudice is also present among some American social attitudes. Such apparent rejection and discrimination are opposite their buufis (dreams of resettlement) Somalis thought they would find in the United States.2 A State filled with racism is certainly not the country Samakaab and Dalmar saw in their cultural orientation before departing Kenya for the United States. The hatred and violence against Somalis and their Masjids or Mosques were absent from Samakaab’s vision of America that he dreamed about every day. Dalmar’s account is the eye-opening reality most Somali refugees face as they build their new lives in the southeast.

Unfortunately, people in the United States know very little about resettled Somalis. What they do know comes from the media and Hollywood (Black Hawk Down, and Captain Phillips). Many portrayals of Somalis in the United States depict them as non-Americans who are in the United States to drain local governments’ resources, increase crime, and decrease school and property value.3 Western media has long provided images of Somalis, especially young Somali men—as dangerous criminals, pirates, and terrorists. Take, for instance, this excerpt from a 2013 review of the movie Captain Phillips.


XVIII, 312
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVIII, 312 pp., 1 b/w ill., 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Dorian Brown Crosby (Author)

Dorian Brown Crosby is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Spelman College, where she was the 2017 recipient of the Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award. Since earning her Ph.D. in political science from Clark Atlanta University, her publications, guest lectures and advocacy focus on resettled African refugees in the United States.


Title: Somalis in the Neo-South
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332 pages