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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Case Studies in Migration: Part Eight: The Second Great Migration

This is a derivative of UNDERSTANDING MEDIA AND CULTURE: AN INTRODUCTION TO MASS COMMUNICATION by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, which was originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The period of immigration from England to the American Colonies between 1620 and 1640 is generally called, "The Great Migration." But there is a second Great Migration from the Southern States after the U.S. Civil War and when the "Jim Crow" laws became unbearable. This second event is truly The Great Migration. It involved the movement of more than 6 million African Americans from the Southern States to the Northern States and California. This movement is generally considered to have begun about 1916 and continued until 1970. Interestingly, by 1970 another massive population movement was in full swing as people of all races migrated to the "sun belt" for work and escape the cold northern winters.

The underlying causes of this vast movement were the attitudes of the Southern States and the implementation of strict segregation policies as well as the economic conditions. Quoting from the website article, "Great Migration."
By the end of 1919, some 1 million blacks had left the South, usually traveling by train, boat or bus; a smaller number had automobiles or even horse-drawn carts. 
In the decade between 1910 and 1920, the black population of major Northern cities grew by large percentages, including New York (66 percent), Chicago (148 percent), Philadelphia (500 percent) and Detroit (611 percent).
Fortunately, for Genealogists, the time period involved has fairly good records and it possible in most cases to document the movement of the population. Research into the origin of the migrants should begin by accumulating information about the families in their destinations and not by jumping back to an assumed origin in the South unless that documentation already exists in the family's records.

Here is a better explanation of the process and the conditions of the migration from, "The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great Migration."
The migration began, like the flap of a sea gull’s wings, as a rivulet of black families escaping Selma, Alabama, in the winter of 1916. Their quiet departure was scarcely noticed except for a single paragraph in the Chicago Defender, to whom they confided that “the treatment doesn’t warrant staying.” The rivulet would become rapids, which grew into a flood of six million people journeying out of the South over the course of six decades. They were seeking political asylum within the borders of their own country, not unlike refugees in other parts of the world fleeing famine, war and pestilence.
Continuing with another quote,
The refugees could not know what was in store for them and for their descendants at their destinations or what effect their exodus would have on the country. But by their actions, they would reshape the social and political geography of every city they fled to. When the migration began, 90 percent of all African-Americans were living in the South. By the time it was over, in the 1970s, 47 percent of all African-Americans were living in the North and West. A rural people had become urban, and a Southern people had spread themselves all over the nation.
The impact of this vast movement is still being felt today. Here is a map showing the changes in the African Americans' share of the population in major U.S. cities from 1910 to 1940 and from 1940 to 1970.

By US Census Bureau - US Census Bureau, Data Visualization Gallery,, Public Domain,
 Here is a list of books about the Great Migration.

African American Genealogy Group (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Pa.) Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum (Philadelphia. “African American Genealogy Group Newsletter.” African American Genealogy Group Newsletter., 1990.

Bascom, Lionel C. Voices of the African American Experience. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2009.

Boehm, Lisa Krissof. Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration. Jackson: Univ Pr Of Mississippi, 2010.

Burroughs, Tony. Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree. New York: Fireside Book, 2001.

Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth. Living in, Living out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration. New York: Kodansha International, 1996.

Garb, Margaret. Freedom’s Ballot: African American Political Struggles in Chicago from Abolition to the Great Migration, 2014.

Greenfield, Eloise, and Jan Spivey Gilchrist. The Great Migration: Journey to the North, 2011.

Hait, Michael. African American Genealogy Research. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2011.

———. African American Genealogy Research. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2011.

Harris, Laurie Lanzen. The Great Migration North, 1910-1970, 2014.

Harrison, Alferdteen. Black Exodus: The Great Migration from the American South. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.

Mack-Williams, Kibibi. African American History, 2017.

Trotter, Joe William. The African American Experience. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Here are links to the previous Case Studies:

Case #1:
Case #2:
Case #3:
Case #4:

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