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Black Exodus

Black Exodus: The Great Migration from the American South

Edited by Alferdteen Harrison
Copyright Date: 1991
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  • Book Info
    Black Exodus
    Book Description:

    What were the causes that motivated legions of black southerners to immigrate to the North? What was the impact upon the land they left and upon the communities they chose for their new homes? Perhaps no pattern of migration has changed America's socioeconomic structure more than this mass exodus of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century.

    Because of this exodus, the South lost not only a huge percentage of its inhabitants to northern cities like Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia but also its supply of cheap labor. Fleeing from racial injustice and poverty, southern blacks took their culture north with them and transformed northern urban centers with their churches, social institutions, and ways of life.

    InBlack Exoduseight noted scholars consider the causes that stimulated the migration and examine the far-reaching results.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-821-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: A Street of Dreams
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Blyden Jackson

    It has been a long, long time, more than 500 years, since a young Portuguese mariner named Antam Gonçalvez captured some stray Africans around 1442 and took them back with him to his home port in Portugal as slaves. Inasmuch as Gonçalvez was negotiating waters off the west coast of Africa he may well be considered the unwitting beginner of the Atlantic slave trade. So, too, to him, conceivably, may be traced everything pertaining to black America, not excluding that hopeful trek, lasting approximately thirty years (about the extent of a human generation), of black Southerners from the South to...

  5. Toward a Socio-Historical and Demographic Portrait of Twentieth-Century African-Americans
    (pp. 1-19)
    Dernoral Davis

    At the turn of this century African-Americans comprised roughly 12 percent of the nationʹs total population of over 75 million.¹ That 12 percent takes on particular significance when it is remembered that throughout the post-Civil War era and late nineteenth century there was no lack of doomsayers predicting the numerical demise of the African-American. Indeed, among their white contemporaries, the conventional wisdom was that post-emancipation African-Americans were simply a doomed race—doomed because they did not possess the ability to provide for even their most basic needs and as a result literally would not survive until 1900.²

    Even theNew...

  6. Rethinking the Role of Racial Violence in the Great Migration
    (pp. 20-35)
    Stewart E. Tolnay and E. M. Beck

    After decades of relative residential stability, southern blacks began migrating in striking numbers after the turn of the twentieth century. Reconstruction and Redemption saw a fair amount of short-distance movement as black tenant farmers exchanged one landlord for another in search of favorable financial arrangements. And, some blacks moved across state lines, generally toward the Southwest, in pursuit of King Cotton and the livelihood it promised. However, these population movements pale in comparison with the massive migration of southern blacks during the first half of this century. During the first ten years of the twentieth century, the South lost 170,000...

  7. The Social and Economic Life of Southern Blacks During the Migration
    (pp. 36-50)
    Carole Marks

    Unofficially, the Great Migration began in the spring of 1916. It was the start of an unusually warm summer in the East, President Wilson was preparing for reelection, women were demonstrating for a suffrage amendment, and a nation with a passion for peace was very cautiously discussing and debating ʺpreparedness.ʺ Hardly noticed, at first, was the tiny stream of workers that the Pennsylvania railroad company brought North to work on the rail lines. Yet their experiment precipitated one of the largest population redistributions in the countryʹs history. At its height, people were leaving at a rate of over 16,000 per...

  8. Black Labor Is the Best Labor: Southern White Reactions to the Great Migration
    (pp. 51-71)
    James R. Grossman

    Conventionally considered part of the history of northern urban ghettos and race relations, the Great Migration has usually been viewed from a northern vantage point, with either an institutional orientation or an emphasis on the migrants as a ʺsocial problem.ʺ Recent studies have begun to examine the movement from the perspective of the migrants, focusing on the process of adaptation and on the interaction between black southerners and various aspects of the northern industrial city.¹ This volume poses a different set of questions, asking us to consider the Great Migration as an event central to our understanding of the history...

  9. The Great Migration as a Lever for Social Change
    (pp. 72-82)
    William Cohen

    In the years from the Civil War to World War I, American blacks remained largely in the South. A few came North, but this was a trickle, not a stream. Then, in 1916–1918 there took place a massive population movement. The exact number that moved in these few years is unknown, but it is clear that in the decade 1910–1920 the North experienced a net migration gain of over half a million blacks.¹ As the migration gathered force, it raised the possibility that, by voting with their feet, ordinary black laborers might transform the South and the nation....

  10. The Migration and Black Protest in Jim Crow Mississippi
    (pp. 83-100)
    Neil R. McMillen

    The story of the Great Migration is among the most dramatic and compelling chapters in all of American history. A folk movement of incalcuable moment, it transformed not only the face of the South and the texture of African-American life, but the very character of American institutions and values. Indeed, so far-reaching are its effects that even now we scarcely understand its meaning for this state, this region, this multi-racial nation. Least of all do we appreciate the place of the black diaspora in the freedom struggle, in that protracted movement for full citizenship that began on seventeenth-century slave ships,...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 101-102)
  12. Index
    (pp. 103-107)