The Great Black Migration North

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Many of the events, situations and circumstances of the second half of the 20th century set the stage for, caused and made possible, most of the business, political and interpersonal scenarios we are experiencing in this country today – good, bad and indifferent. According to the U.S. Census of 1900, ninety percent of Blacks lived in the South. Three-quarters of black households were located in rural places; only one-fifth owned their own homes and most worked as farmers or laborers. If not on farms, the vast majority of Black men and women who worked at all did so in unskilled labor and service jobs. It was also noted in the census that most Black children did not attend school. The massive migration of Southern Blacks to the North started as far back as the 1920’s and is attributed to the worsening political and social conditions in the South. However the timing and escalation of the migration closely coincides with and are connected to economic factors as well. There was strong domestic and international demand for American made goods. Up to the point of the Black migration north, European immigrants were the sole source of cheap labor for Northern employers. The onset of World War I disturbed the international migration and post war immigration laws further stifled the flow of Europeans to America. Southern Blacks became Northern industries’ new source of cheap labor. Some employers would go so far as to send recruiters to the south and actually pay the way for Blacks to go north to work in the factories. This presented a strong pull on Southern Blacks to the North. Paired with the push of poor and worsening economic and social conditions in the South, Blacks had little choice but to embark upon the mass migration. When Southern Blacks reached the northern states, they found life to be a substantial improvement over what they had in the South. They enjoyed social and economic freedoms that they never had before. It is during this time of...
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