The Great Migration Essay

The Great Migration is a term used in the U.S. history to denote the period in the 20th century, from 1916 to 1970, when African Americans, based in the South, moved on a large scale from rural communities. While initially living mostly in the Southern states, during the Great Migration nearly six million African Americans relocated to the large urban cities in the North, West and Midwest.

The Reasons for the Great Migration

African Americans moved out to escape the miserable conditions in the South that included low wages, racism and lynching. By contrast, in the backdrop of the growth of industries there was an acute shortage of the labor in the North. So the movement was spurred to seek better education for their children and more lucrative employment for themselves. The state of California was a much preferred destination as there was a great demand for industrial workers and abundance of job opportunities in various industries. During 1965 - 1970 a serious migration occurred in the fourteen main states including regions like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

According to W.T. Andrews, lawyer and editor of Sumter Defender,“causes of Negro unrest and disturbance of mind are as protection of life, liberty and property under the law; insufficient wages to the laboring class... no educational facilities worthy of the name for the education of Negro children in most of the Southern states.” He believed that these were the most serious reasons that inspired people to change their lives. (Scott, 2009).

Consequences of the Great Migration

The widespread migrations that took place during this period left a great impact on city life in the United States. Due to the large growth of the Afro-American population in the Northern cities, there was an increasing competition amongst the migrants for employment and living space in the growing crowded cities. Besides, racism and prejudice led to the interracial strife and race riots, worsening the situation between the whites and the blacks. Racism was no longer a southern problem, it became a national issue. In the book, The Promised Land: The Great Migration and How it Changed America (1991), Nicholas Lemann reiterated that “the very notion that an enormous racial problem existed in the North caused the whole consensual vision of American society to crumble.” (as cited in Hard, 1991).

White property owners in some residential neighborhoods refused to sell or rent out to blacks and with rents rising in segregated areas, many blacks began to create their exclusive cities within the bigger city, leading to the birth of the African-American culture. The period also saw the rise of political activism as the African Americans began to establish their role in public life in the Northern and Western cities. In some cities such as Newark and Chicago, the Blacks who worked in close proximity with European Americans, slowly began to get integrated into the society with their lifestyles changing as Industrial workers.

The Migration of African Americans decreased in the 1930s owing to the Great Depression, but resumed considerably with the advent of the Second World War. The Great Migration of the African Americans ended by 1970 leaving behind a great change in the demography of the people remaining in the South. While the population of the African- Americans grew by 40 percent in the cities such as Chicago, Cleveland and New York, it decreased dramatically throughout the South.

Historical migration had many reasons and consequences, but what is most important - it gave people an opportunity to become integrated into different social units. Cultural equality and freedom are the basis for the democratic society, which is the main priority of the modern US.


FreshEssays (2013). Buy Essays on Any Topic. Retrieved from

Hard, F.L. (1991). African-American migration. Retrieved from

Scott, E.J. (2009). NEGRO MIGRATION DURING THE WAR. Retrieved from

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