The Great Migration was the mass movement of about five million southern blacks to the north and west between 1915 and 1960. During the initial wave the majority of migrants moved to major northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York.
The first large movement of blacks occurred during World War I, when 454,000 black southerners moved north. In the 1920s, another 800,000 blacks left the south, followed by 398,000 blacks in the 1930s. Between 1940 and 1960 over 3,348,000 blacks left the south for northern and western cities.
The main economic motivations for migration were to escape harsh economic conditions in the south and the promise of a better life in the north. Most southern blacks worked as sharecroppers, tenant farmers, or farm labors, all with little chance of advancement. Many southern blacks moved north to find work in factories following the huge demand created by World War I, which was the first time that black labor was in demand outside of the agricultural south. Some sectors of the economy were so desperate for workers during the war that they would pay for blacks to move north.
Blacks also moved north in order to escape the social conditions of the south, included lynching, an unfair legal system, inequality in education, and denial of suffrage.
The great migration, one of the largest internal migrations in the history of the United States, changed forever the urban North, the rural South, African America and in many respects, the entire nation.
Source: The Great Migration (1915-1960)
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