History of the Great Migration

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The Great Migration occurred in the early 1900s, and it involved the migration of over 6 million African Americans from Southern cities to the North of the country specifically, Newark. The Great Migration resulted into what can be described as a shift in massive demographic shifts across the United States. African Americans migrated to Newark because they were trying to escape racism and Jim Crow laws that existed in the South. The African-Americans saw that Newark was a place of community and it had a lot of jobs to offer and to them, they thought Newark was a paradise compared to the Southern cities.

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According to the Newark Anniversary Guide published in 1916 by the Newark Sales and Advertising Co, Newark was a city with the best schools, well-paved streets, beautiful churches that welcomed anyone who wanted to attend, superb water supply and excellent public light and transportation service. That was not all, Newark also had a lot of booming industries and had wages that paid employees average $747 yearly. Who would not resist moving to a place that sounded so perfect without investigating if they were going through hardships like the African Americans? They set out to Newark because they felt that at least in that city, they would be accepted for who they were. Further, also to not having the right to vote, it is serious to understand that African Americans were also segregated in the South. In fact, it is critical to understand that in the year 1896, the case of Plessy V. Ferguson case made it legal in the United States to enforce the separate but equal public facilities that included water fountains, public schools as well as restroom facilities. However, the African Americans that existed in North America did not enforce most of these laws, and the African Americans that lived in the South had known about this situation. Therefore, they craved a life where they would be able to be adequately treated equally and feel that they are more humans.

African Americans were more peaceful in the North because of the Great Migration. They were able to feel more peaceful because, in the South, African-Americans were subjected to several various acts of terror that were caused by white Southerners. There was the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan which argued that it was only White Christians that were entitled to civil rights in the United States. In the South, because of several white supremacist groups, African American Men and women were murdered by lynching, setting fire to their properties and homes as well as bombing churches that had African Americans. In an article by the Atlanta Constitution in December 14, 1916 titled, “Penalties of Migration”, it states that although the south may be as promising because of situations like the KKK, segregations and racism issues, the north was no better because it had unhealthy surroundings and their wages were not as big as promised yet still the African Americans did not heed because they thought the south was just trying to keep them there.

In a New York Times article published in 1917 it stated that because of World War I, there was a shortage of men in factories in the Northern cities. Therefore, because of the migration more African Americans were able to find work. There was an extreme shortage of workers and the African Americans felt that indeed they would able to cover the shortage. It is critical to understand that more than five million workers were enlisted in the Army, and secondly, the United States government was able to halt immigration from European countries. Most African-Americans that lived in the South had been severely affected by the shortage of farm work. Therefore, most of them went to the call of employment agents that were living in Newark. The agents from the different industrial sectors arrived in the South and enticed the African American women and men to migrate North by paying travel expenses. Therefore, the movement of the Great Migration led to better education as well as housing options as well as experiencing high pay as compared to the wages that they were being given in the South.

Although Newark had a lot of good things to offer African Americans, the northern cities were no different from the south. When the African Americans got to Newark, most of them didn’t have places to live. In an article by Helen Pendleton published in February 1917 titled, “Cotton Pickers in Northern Counties”, it talks about how African Americans sold their belongings and left for Newark with no plans or whatsoever. It also talks about how African Americans were forced to live in basements and in the worst parts of the city.  According to an interview with Annie Rose Johnston on November 13, 19995, most African Americans had a tough year because most of their families fell sick due to the conditions in which they lived in whiles someone in the family struggled very hard to make ends meet.

African Americans were welcomed by racial inequality, segregation, many expenses, and cruel treatment in the south. They migrated towards circumstances which they had thought would be different, but it wasn’t. Nevertheless, they brought their culture with them and left a lasting impact on different aspects of society. While they were unable to attain their goals, they still managed to leave significant impacts on American society.

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History Of The Great Migration. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved October 7, 2022 , from
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