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Why African Americans Left The South to Head to The North

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During the Great Migration, African Americans were leaving their southern homes and heading to the north to begin a new life. Although this movement was was seen as a triumph in the most of the black community, it was not seen as a positive in the white southern community. Majority of the white southerners had a negative response to the African Americans participating in the Great Migration.

From previous knowledge, I know that African Americans had left the south for many reasons. The south was an unsafe place for an African American during that time, and the north offered a more hospitable environment. In the north, there were far less lynchings, beatings, and discrimination than in the south. With the African Americans leaving in great numbers to the north, the white southerners were losing a race that they had dominant control over. Also, employment was running rapid in the north and African American southerners wanted to take advantage of jobs that had a higher pay and didn’t include working out in the fields. This movement of African Americans to the north meant a decrease in labor force in the south. Labor agents would come to southern communities to recruit African Americans to come up north and work for them. With a promise of a higher pay and a less hostile environment, the offer seemed more than appealing to most African Americans. White southerners who held political power and police officers hassled these labor agents and the interested African Americans, in fear that their labor force would begin dwindling. In my opinion, I find this reaction from the white southerners odd. Although I understand that they didn’t want to lose their workforce, I would think that at that point, they would realize how skewed their system was. Majority of the labor intensive jobs were held by African Americans for little pay. I would think that the white southers could have realized how unjust that really was. Also, it would have been a time for them to realize how awful they were treating African Americans. Why would a person want to live in a place where they are not accepted as a human being and constantly in fear of their life? But the small minded white southerners had such a contorted view of African Americans living in the south with them, they could never see that point of view. The African Americans knew that by moving to the north, they could begin a new and better life. They could be trained in fields other than agriculture or personal servants. And for those that couldn’t afford to bring their families with them, they could use their new jobs to send money down to them, and even send for them once they were in a financially stable state. This uplifting idea was seen as an unacceptable action to white southerners, considering they only wanted the African Americans to stay just so they could continue working for them, for little to no wages. For example, the cotton industry was popular in the south, and it was very labor intensive. It required numerous hours of work and proper care. During America’s slavery period through the Great Migration, the cotton industry employed mostly African Americans to do a job that was too harsh for white southerners. With the Great Migration taking place. white southerners were angered and feared that their workforce in industries such as this, would be diminished.

The Great Migration opened new opportunities for African Americans living in the south, and gave them a chance at true happiness to life. With the African Americans slowly transporting themselves to northern states, white southerners saw a possible collapse in their economy. White southers did everything in their power to keep the southern African Americans from leaving to live a better life, and keep them trapped in the south doing strenuous, unfair labor.

They fled as if under a spell or a high fever. “They left as though they were fleeing some curse (Wilkerson 8)”. It would become perhaps the biggest under reported story of the twentieth century. It was vast. It was leaderless. It crept along so many thousands of currents over so long a stretch of time as to be difficult for the press truly to capture while it was under way. Historians would come to call it the great migration. (Wilkerson 9) The Great Migration or for better words the start to a new beginning was an event that occurred in the 19th century Where African American relocated from the South to the North after the World War I.

After reading part 1 of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson I was able to answer: What were the major economic, social, and historical forces that sparked the Great Migration? Why did blacks leave in such great numbers from 1915 to 1970? After reading the chapter The Great Migration, 1915-1970 and doing some research I believe job opportunities, unfair legal systems, lynching, and education sparked the great migration.

In the chapter The Great Migration, 1915-1970 Wilkerson talks about how the south legal system. Based on the description in this chapter it brings me to believe this is one of the reason Blacks left the south due to unfair legal system. She talks about jim crow laws and how every step of African American lives was controlled by laws as such. An another form of unfair legal system was also presented in the Slavery by another name video on PBS. After the ruling of the Emancipation Proclamation which is a law that states that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Due to the legal system free slaves were made prisoner and thrown back into slavery well technical jail.

Job opportunities is another reason I believe African American migrated from the South to North. After the World War I jobs in the north had become available. African American seen this a new start. They no longer wanted to be sharecropper’s, farm labors, farm tenants, etc. As mention in the book African American picked up and left the tobacco farms of Virginia, the rice plantation of South Carolina, cotton fields in east Texas and Mississippi, and the villages and backwoods of the remaining southern States. The World War I demanded for workers in northern factories. Leaving states such as the ones mentioned above and many more behind. Then heading to Cities to such New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and many more for better job opportunities.

“In our homes, in our churches, wherever two or three are gathered, there is discussion of what is best to do. Must we remain in the South or go elsewhere? Where can we go to feel that security which other people feel? Is it best to go great numbers or only in several families? These and many other things are discussed over and over”, words from a color woman in Alabama of 1902. The great migration was the start of positive movement and step towards freedom among african american then and now. Having the courage and strength to finally leave not only benefit past and present generations, but it also broke laws such as The Jim Crow Laws from continuing to harm generations as it had done to at least four generations already. Leaving the states such as the mentioned above as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and some other parts help African American with employment. African American were able to make a change and name for themselves which eventually lead to many more movements and improvements for the African American community overall since the 1900’s.

What does different mean? What makes an individual different? According to the dictionary different means not the same as another or each other; unlike in nature, form, or quality. According to me different mean Ida B wells. Ida B Wells once said, “If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service.” A service that no other African American female had done during this time/century in America. A service that gave Ida B wells the name the Crusader for justice.

As a public women, “Ida B. Wells can viewed as unusual among nineteenth century women. What makes her so? After reading A Red Record, Southern Horrors. Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and Mob Rule in New Orleans I have come up with the answer based on the readings and my opinions towards the readings.

During the 19th century most women were viewed as housewife and mainly in the background. Not to mention women didn’t have the right to vote until August 18, 1920 when congress passed the 19th amendment which granted all american women the right to vote. Before then you had Ida B Wells who became the voice of not only African Americans, but for women as well. What makes Ida B Wells unusual among the nineteenth century women was that she did the unspeakable, unthought of, and in a different way. Ida B Wells spoke with her words and brought facts to the table to people who may have known or not known what was going on during that era. She even risk the chance of being killed.

In the pamphlet The Red Record she exposed the truth by giving dates, places, and reasons on why african american were lynched in the South for no reason at all. You had stories where an innocent boy was killed based on a crime his step father committed, but due to the fact they could not find him they lynched the boy instead. You have another story where

In the pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law In All Its Phases Ida B Wells gave examples of what happen in the South. As far as innocent African American males being lynch to due the fact that they were blamed for rape. Then later proving that he was innocent after death. She gave theories on why the reasoning of lynching was wrong in this case and many others.

She called white’s out on there no good excuses on they were African Americans lynching in the south. She also used sources from white news articles to back up her information as well which was a plus within itself.

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Why African Americans Left The South to Head to The North. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from
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