The early 20th century was a time when African Americans faced widespread racism, discrimination, and segregation in the Southern United States. During this era, a significant movement known as the Great Migration began to unfold. The Great Migration was a mass exodus of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial cities of the North and West, seeking better opportunities and escaping racial oppression.
Southern landowners tried to halt this migration, as they feared the loss of cheap labor and their ability to control and exploit Black workers. To maintain their control, these landowners used various strategies aimed at keeping African Americans in the South and tied to the plantations. White supremacist groups and individuals perpetrated acts of terror, including lynching and mob violence, to instill fear in the hearts of those daring to seek a better life elsewhere.
Newspapers like the Chicago Defender promoted opportunities and a better life for African Americans. Conversely, Southern newspapers tried to downplay these prospects and emphasize the perils of migrating, further attempting to keep African Americans rooted in the oppressive conditions of the South. They went as far as interfering with the US Mail to prevent the Defenders distribution. Ordinances were passed to make it illegal to accept pre-paid train tickets or group travel if black families tried to travel together.
Despite these efforts to suppress the Great Migration, the movement continued to gain momentum. Over six million African Americans left the South during the first half of the 20th century, reshaping the demographic and cultural landscape of the nation. This mass movement of people played a pivotal role in fueling the growth of African American communities in Northern cities and contributed significantly to the civil rights movement.
This became a crucial chapter in American history, where African Americans courageously defied oppressive forces to seek a better life beyond the confines of the Southern plantations. This illuminates the resilience and determination of those who participated in the Great Migration and reflects upon the enduring legacy of this transformative era in our nation’s past.
For further insight into this historical period of history please read: How Southern Landowners Tried to Restrict the Great Migration at History.com