The Great Migration. Professor Nora Faires Western Michigan University Teaching American History Flint, Michigan 25 June 2008. James Weldon Johnson, Historian and writer,1930:.
Professor Nora Faires
Western Michigan University
Teaching American History
25 June 2008
Migrants came north in thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands - from the docks of Norfolk, Savannah, Jacksonville, Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston: from the cotton fields of Mississippi, and the coal mines and steel-mills of Alabama and
Tennessee; from workshops and wash-tubs and brickyards and kitchens they came, until the number, by conservative estimate, went well over the million and a half mark.“ (Black Manhattan)
--demand for “internal migrants” increases with:
“Persecution plays its part.”
--from his study of the reasons for Southern blacks heading North
With Jim Crow laws.
People who are cruel
Who lynch and run,
Who are scared of me
And me of them.
I pick up my life
And take it away
On a one-way ticket—
Gone up North,
Gone out West,
--Langston Hughes, One Way Ticket (1949);
Great Migration involves all these forms.
Data from tables in:
James N. Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America
Total Numbers Leaving the South, 1900-2000
New Jersey 231,000
New York 567,000
--drawn from remaining farms, rural areas, towns, smaller and larger cities
In preparing this presentation I have drawn from numerous sources. See especially:
How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005)
History Matters: The U.S. Survey on the Web
Includes: "Sir I Will Thank You with All My Heart"Seven Letters from the Great Migration
Seven letters to the Chicago Defender— a black newspaper published in Chicago that strongly urged southern blacks to migrate North—attest to migrants' strong desire to “better their condition,” often risking their lives and possessions to make the trip north.
Langston Hughes: Artist and Historian
by Medria Blue
Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute:
Images, Texts, and Voices of the Great Migration
When wages were paid, they averaged about 75¢ a day before World War I.
A minister from Alabama commented,
"The Negro farm hand gets his compensation hardly more than the mule he plows; that is his board and shelter. Some mules fare better than Negroes."
Sirs: Noticing and ad in Chicago Defender of your assitance to those desiring employment there I thought I mayhaps you could help me secure work in your Windy City. I’m a married man have one child. I have common school education, this is my hand write. I am presently employed as a miner has been for 14 years but would like a Change. I’m apt to learn would like to get where I could go on up and support myself and family. You know more about it than I but in your opinion could I make anything as pullman porter being inexsperienced? I’d be so grateful to U. to place me in something I’ve worked myself too hard for nothing. I’m sober and can adjust my life with any kind and am a quiet christian man. * * * NEW ORLEANS, April 22, 1917
Norfolk to Pittsburgh:
New Orleans to Chicago:
Between 1889 and 1932, over 3,700 people were lynched in the United States.
More than 85 percent of these lynchings were of blacks living in the South.
"[S]ome months ago Anthony Crawford, a highly respectable, honest and industrious Negro, with a good farm and holdings estimated to be worth $300,000, was lynched in Abbeville, South Carolina. He was guilty of no crime. He would not be cheated out of his cotton. That was insolence. . . .
[The mob] overpowered him and brutally lynched him. Is any one surprised that Negroes are leaving South Carolina by the thousands? The wonder is that any of them remain."
When I move
Into a neighborhood
Even every foreigner
That can move, moves
The moon doesn’t run
Neither does the sun.
They’ve got covenants
On the South Side,
Can’t breathe free.
But the wind blows there.
I reckon the wind
One Way Ticket
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
Ballad of the Gypsy
Southern Mammy Songs
I pick up my life I pick up my life
And take it with me And take it on the train
And I put it down in To Los Angeles,
Chicago, Detroit, Bakersfield,
Buffalo, Scranton Seattle, Oakland,
Any place that is Salt Lake
North and East— Any place that is
And not Dixie North and West
And not South
I am fed up I pick up my life
With Jim Crow laws And take it away
People who are cruel On a one-way ticket
And afraid Going up North,
Who lynch and run, Gone out West,
Who are scared of me Gone!
And me of them.
I've known rivers:I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.I've known rivers:Ancient, dusky rivers.My soul has grown deep like the rivers