The American Dream
The American dream. The exact definition of this term has changed greatly over the coarse of American history, but the desire to obtain it has not. This idea in its most basic form is the wish to be happy, the desire to better oneself and to achieve the ideal life. The thought of the American dream is deeply rooted in our history and many different groups of people through time have struggled to achieve their version of the American dream. Although many people have struggled to achieve this goal, when most people think of a struggle for equality and opportunity in American history, the African American community is the usually first group to come to mind. After slaves were officially emancipated they were finally free to pursue their American dream. This eventually led to the Great Migration and the conflict that followed. The Great Migration was a mass movement of blacks from the South to the North in the early 1900’s. They moved with the intention of escaping persecution and finding greater economic opportunity. The Great Migration had an impact on everybody. Three of the most affected groups were migrating blacks, the already established blacks, and Southern whites dealing with a labor shortage. The conflicting views during this time caused increased violence and race clashes.
The group most affected by the Great Migration was the blacks that were moving north. They were seeking the American Dream in the economic stability and an escape from the persecution in the South. Southerners looking for work would often write into newspapers such as “The Chicago Defender” asking for work and housing1 . Most of the first migrants were single men and women with no attachments. They stabilized in the north and then went back south to get their families.2 When the men and women from the north came down and told their friends and families about the freedom and wealth of the north many were expecting great things. Some with high expectation were disappointed by the crowded and unsafe conditions, others were just grateful for the unprecedented freedom3 . Despite these improvements to living conditions and job choices some southern blacks were strongly against migration. The Great Migration was not accepted by everyone, some southern blacks and already established northern blacks were strongly against the migration. Moving north would uproot many old family ties and it was also thought that “...it is impossible for us to adopt ourselves to a new climate, new conditions, and new people without a great deal of suffering.” 4
They believed that they would be a
stronger people in the end if they stuck out their problems and solved them by hard
1 2 3 4
Black Protest and the Great Migration (Eric Arnesen) Page 64 (Dr. Elisabeth Ritacca Oct 15, 2012). Black Protest and the Great Migration (Eric Arnesen) Page 67 Black Protest and the Great Migration (Eric Arnesen) Page 63
work, education and thrift.5 The southern blacks also faced more racial persecution from the white supremacist groups because of the migration. This caused them to be more skeptical about the long term value of the Great Migration. Southern whites were very intimidated by this sudden display of freedom from the blacks. The negro was a valuable financial asset to the Southern white and their vision of the American Dream was being threatened by their ‘Exodus’. A white woman writing into a newspaper confirmed this general unrest. “We cant afford to let him (the negro) go; he means to much to us - financially. He works for little; his upkeep costs us little.”6 They were strongly affected by the shortage of laborers and lashed back with increased violence and persecution. The number of lynchings dramatically increased as well, in the south, more than seventy men were put to death in 1919 alone. This also lead to violent race riots in Chicago that left 38 dead and 537 wounded.7 The difference in opinion between these three...
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