The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
Interactive Maps
Tools and Activities
For Teachers

Jim Crow Stories

Introduction People Narratives Events Organizations

The Great Migration (1900-1970)
Horse-drawn carriages

Within the black community, there had been constant migration since the end of the nineteenth century. Much of that migration had taken place within the South as blacks migrated from place to place trying to make a decent living. In the twentieth century, blacks started to move to the North as the train provided easy access to Chicago and other Northern cities. When World War I began in Europe, and foreign workers could no longer emigrate to America, factories needed a new labor source. Hundreds of thousands of blacks migrated from the South to Chicago and other cities of the North. The CHICAGO DEFENDER, the most influential black newspaper, From 1900 to 1960, an estimated five million blacks migrated from the South.encouraged blacks to leave. The paper held a vision of the North as the land of freedom, a dream that has been in the hearts of black men and women since slavery time -- many referred to the North as "The Promised Land" Young Richard Wright, who became an internationally acclaimed writer, remembered how the North kept hope alive during the dark days of his childhood in the deep South. "The North symbolized to me all that I had not felt or seen; it had no relation to what actually existed. Yet by imagining a place where everything is possible, it kept hope alive inside of me."

Southern whites feared the migration would deprive them of black labor. Blacks saw the exodus as a fulfillment of God's promise. A Birmingham minister offered the following prayer to his congregation: "We feel and believe that this great Exodus is God's hand and plan. In a mysterious way God is moving upon the hearts of our people to go where He has prepared for them." Among those who migrated were the most creative people in the South. Jazz musicians came from New Orleans to play in Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. Blues players came from the Delta. The NAACP welcomed writers and poets like writer Zora Neale Hurston, poet Langston Hughes, and sculptor Augusta Savage. They, along with poet Countee Cullen and other black artists, created a cultural explosion known as the "Harlem Renaissance." The migration slowed down during the Depression in the 1930s but picked up speed when World War II began. Again jobs opened up in factories. At the same time, mechanization came to the cotton fields, displacing many black farmers. Between the period 1910 and 1970, an estimated six million blacks migrated from the South.

-- Richard Wormser

Choose Another Event

Did you Know ...

Between 1910 and 1970, the proportion of blacks living in the South dropped from 90% to 53%.
Related Pages

Harlem Renaissance

print this page
email this page
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - home About the Series Pledge Teen Leadership Site Map Resources top