American History essay

The Great Migration was caused by a host of factors that contributed to the movement of African Americans from the South to the North, creating sizeable communities in the North. Some of these reasons explain the movement out of the South; others refer to the attractions of the North. In any case, the Migration proved a “watershed” in African American history because of the geographic relocation and associated social changes. The factors leading African Americans to leave the South were mainly economic disempowerment and discrimination that former slaves had to endure in the original places of their settlement in the US.

Suffering under oppressive Jim Crow laws, African Americans did not see a future for themselves on southern lands. For sharecroppers, economic misfortune was exacerbated by the Boll Weevil infestation that invaded southern lands in the early 20th century. The plight of African American farmers was aggravated by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The factors that attracted them in the North were equally compelling. In the post-war economic expansion, industrial production in Northern states was booming, requiring constant addition of new labor.

These opportunities could no longer effectively be filled by European migrants as their stream waned in the aftermath of the bloody war. The government also blockaded the stream of migrants with tougher anti-immigration legislation. However, the supply of African American hands was large, and these people could effectively fill in vacancies offered to them by the growing industrial manufacturing, and especially in military industries.

Expansion did not only mean job creation in the industrial sector – its growth was fuelling vacation of jobs in services and other areas that were quickly filled by incoming migrants. Migrating African Americans also hoped that the North, lacking the traditions of Black Codes and Ku Klux Clan would prove a more pleasant place to live in. The Great Migration had a variety of consequences both for the African American population and the rest of the nation.

For migrating workers, the move presented new challenging opportunities that gave them many advantages as compared to their former condition in the South. Earning higher wages, they now had access to many aspects of life from which they had been barred by their oppressed condition. New educational opportunities unfolded for the children. The community as a whole gained access to new horizons that also precipitated cultural rebirth. A manifestation can be the Harlem Renaissance that created a string of cultural leaders among Afro-Americans.

The entrance of African Americans into the industrial workforce in combination with their departure from the South opened to many businessmen the importance of black labor. In the South, “business men and planters soon found out that it was impossible to treat the Negro as a serf and began to deal with him as an actual employee entitled to his share of the returns from his labor” (Wikipedia, 2006). The attitude toward black farm workers soon became more humane, and they were regarded as entitled to part of the income they could bring the employer.

In the North, African Americans for the first time became a significant factor in economic life. This made them a factor in politics too and inspired politicians to give them more rights. In consequence of the Great Migration and the need for African American workers, “in 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which banned racial discrimination in the workplace in all industries involved in the war effort and paved the way for the American civil rights movement” (Wikipedia, 2006).

In general, the Great Migration proved a serious change for the Black Community. Creating strong African American communities in the North, it also opened to people way toward good education and better-paid jobs. In essence, it provided impetus for the development of the community and paved the way toward greater involvement in American society.


Wikipedia. (2006). Great Migration. Retrieved from June 21, 2006, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Great_Migration_(African_American)