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The Great Migration

  • Date Submitted: 12/14/2011 04:12 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 48.5 
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After the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, many African Americans remained in the south. It was not until the onset of World War I that a significant number of African Americans migrated to the North. This large migration took place approximately between 1915 and 1918 and was named "the Great Migration" by historians. The Birmingham, Alabama Herald proclaims, "there is something more behind their going, something that lies deeper than a temporary discontent and the wish to try a new environment" (49) Many push and pull factors contributed to the large influx of African Americans transferring north. Unfortunately, many realized that the north was not as desirable as imagined.

Poor race relations, labor and economic factors, and crop disasters were the major push factors of the Great Migration. The mere fact that Jim Crow laws and customs still were used in the South and that lynchings, violence, and racial terror existed was enough to convince African Americans to leave the South. There was an appalling incident when a woman was burned for trying to protect her child. Mechanization of farm labor decreased the availability of jobs for African Americans. The north offered the jobs and economy for blacks that the south lacked.

Crop disasters, such as boll weevil, floods and droughts, were another push factor. Boll weevil was an infestation that disrupted cotton production. The floods and droughts destroyed other crops. These three significant factors and others convinced African Americans to flee the harsh conditions of the south. Many believed that discrimination was the number one reason for the flight. Black sociologist Charles S. Johnson disagreed by claiming that "had persecution been the dominant and original stimulus, the direction of the Negroes during the sixty years following emancipation would have been north instead of further south" (56). This movement was more distinctive than other exoduses in that the people moved in a mass rather than...


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