Black People : THE GREAT BLACK MIGRATION(S)

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by Isaiah, Jun 13, 2004.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I don't know whether this topic has been addressed in depth at this forum, so if I sound like I don't know what time it is, please don't hesitate to tell me so.

    This particular subject has such far-reaching ramifications, and all-encompassing impact on American society and culture over the last 100 years, that it easily competes with the Civil Rights Movement for the single most important socio-political event in the country's history. For one, it took place over a 100 year period, roughly 1870 to 1970, when, historians say, African Americans began their exodus out of the rural south to the urban north. This exodus started as a trickle, then, to places in the midwest, such as the state of Kansas, and turned into full-blown mass exodus during, and after, the WWI and WWII periods, when more than 6 million African Americans left the south for the north...

    It is interesting to note each angle in this exodus for it's historical importance, how it changed America and it's culture, and how it changed African Americans cultural sensibilities and perspectives, as mainly rural people moving into an urban environment. For example, we've rarely considered the implications had African Americans stayed on those farms down south, rather than migrating out to Chicago, for example, the birthplace of Gospel music and the Urban Blues sound we call Soul... We've never considered whether there'd ever have been a Harlem Renaissance or Motown Records, or a Nation of Islam had our people stayed down south on those plantations...

    Yes, African Americans in the rural south brought a tremendous wealth of riches in culture with them when they came north, but would it have morphed, as it did, had it not been for the migration? In turn, African Americans in the north created their own cultural contributions, such as Rhythm & Blues and HipHop, which are forms which the entire world, now, sings... They world, now, attempts to appropriate the once hated Black Lexicon which our parents brought with them from the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia... Ebonics, we could say endearingly, has become a plague upon the earth(smile!)

    But, seriously, the historians all seem to agree that it was those World Wars that triggered the mass migrations of African Americans out of the south... African American men returning home from wars in which they had fought for democracy in far-flung places, and received the plaudits of the world, saw no such democracy in the place of their birth. The great Bluesman, Big Bill Broonzy says, that when he got off the train in Mississippi, in his uniform with Sargeant's stripes on his sleeves, he was greeted by angry white men, who told him to go get in his overalls, as he "wont be needing no uniform where you're gonna be workin'..." That's all 6-foot 5-inches, and 250 pounds of man being treated as a boy, and Big Bill, along with millions of other Black Men, had decided he would tolerate it no longer... It was Big Bill Broonzy who wrote the song, Goin' To Chicago, an anthem for literally millions of AfroSippians, from the 1920's onward into the 1970's...

    Twenty Five years later, brothers Medgar and Charles Evers would return home to Mississippi from fighting in WWII, and find themselves unable to even register to vote, but their service to this country gave them a sense of their place in this world, and they decided they would organize African Americans, and fight this Jim Crow system until it was finally torn down... This scenario was played out all over the south, as returning veterans actually opted to stay and fight the system, rather than take flight to the north... For even in the north, African Americans still faced defacto Jim Crow, and white violence, as in the Red Summer of 1919, and subsequent major riots in New York and Detroit in the 1940's...

    I don't mean to write an entire history here, as I am neither qualified, nor have the time, but I feel it is important to teach our children and grandchildren this history, and how we have impacted on this society in such an all-encompassing way... It is not enough to talk about George Washington Carver, Charles Drew, and Granville T. Woods, as scientists and inventors who've made contributions to the world... My parents and your parents, simple people with warm southern twangs and smiles and customs, also made their impact on this society... It was these Black Folk, the Local People, historian John Dittmer called them, who got organized, and fought Jim Crow down south, who deserve as much credit as Elijah McCoy, because they changed the fabric of this country... We must not only teach our children, but ourselves, because the vast majority of African Americans in New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan may know that mama and papa came here from south, but they don't understand the larger impact of that trip for all of the generations that have followed...

    We need to understand those implications, and White folks need to understand those implications, because a whole lot of them seem to think they were "down" with our cultural inventions and conventions from jump, and how this could be true under statutory segregation, mandated by the highest court in the land, escapes logical understanding... So, in understanding OurStory, we can cut these folks off at that pass where they re-write and revise history to their satisfaction(smile!) Be Back with some websites of note to continue this discussion - and thank you for your patience if you've read this long-winded piece!!!(smile!)

    Isaiah
     
  2. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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  3. Blackbird

    Blackbird Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    You on Time Brotha! As a brotha from the South, the good ol' Bible Belt, I loved it.

    Blackbird
     
  4. PurpleMoons

    PurpleMoons Administrator STAFF

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    Your article was great! It put a smile in my heart and some history on my brains. I found my self smilin all the way through. Thank you for such an inspiring post! :jumping: :wave:
     
  5. NNQueen

    NNQueen going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Excellent thread Brother Isaiah, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I personally believe that African Americans have woven a beautiful and rich history in America in spite of our brutal and demoralizing beginnings here. What we were able to do with so little is evident in your article. But as I reflect on this migration, and our evolution as a result of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, I sit here wondering what we have lost or given up in the transition from south to north. Being from the south myself, I see some of the differences in the mindset and behavior of southern Blacks versus northern Blacks--particularly post-integration and desegregation. The GREAT migration meaning we moved en masse but was it as great as we had hoped it would be?

    Peace,
    Queenie :spinstar:
     
  6. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Good peops, I wanna thank y'all for the rousing response to the post(smile!) A great many things have crystalized for me as a man because of this subject, and that's why I approach it with such passion...

    NNQueen and BlackBird, I notice you two are from the south, where my mother and father were born, and where they took me as a small child to meet the rest of my family who had not migrated to the North. It was not, at first, a kind experience, as their families lived in,what I call, small "eyeblink" towns, with no running water, no indoor toilets, no paved roads, and no lights. Having grown up in Brooklyn, New York, the environment was exceedingly foreign to me, but, ironically, the spirit of Southern African Americans was never as far away from me as those trips to the Carolinas...

    For one thing, so many African Americans had migrated to the north that every one of my friends' parents spoke with a southern accent, cooked southern food, and all of them lived by the rules, customs, and culture they had BROUGHT with them on that trip down I-95(smile!) In the 1960's, as a growing child, I could not wander down a street in my neighborhood, and not be corraled and questioned and interrogated and threatened by some southern Black woman, who wanted to know if my parents had given me permission to be this far from home(half a block away!) That was the "Village" mentality of the south - even Africa - at work... Of course, we've all got stories to tell about how any grownup could whip your *** if you got outta line, and dared sass 'em. but truth be told, rarely did that happen, because rules and regulations were followed back then, by children deathly afraid of the Ironing cord on a bare bootie(smile!) NNQueen, in answer to your questions about what we've lost, it is that good, old-fashioned communal discipline, and respect for the chain of command(Elders)...

    I also think we've got cold, and hardened by city life... I mean, my mother and father were pretty outgoing, smiling folks, who taught me through their example, to smile and greet folks with the pleasure of meeting them... In this town I grew up in, that was perceived as being too soft, so as a youngster I learned to put a little shade on my habit of smiling... When my mother passed on, I realized where all of her warmth and sweetness had come from, and it lead me on a journey to know more about that experience, that culture that has given America its only original Art Forms, The Blues and Jazz and Sweet Potato Pies(smile!)

    On a final note, I mentioned I-95 as the highway that lead so many Southeastern African Americans into New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, because these cities are filled with Carolinians, Virginians, Georgians, and Floridians, in contrast to Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Los Angeles, which drew African Americans out of the deep south states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee, along what is known as the Blues Highway, or simply Highway 61... Clearly, Highway 61 influenced the musical culture of this country and the world, as well as those cities to which those African Americans chose to migrate, and needs to be studied on the serious tip... As African Americans, we tend to think of ourselves as musical folks, with the same overall culture, but I no longer know just how true that is... I mean, I must ask myself why did Chicago and Detroit develop such a beautiful range of Black Sound, while New York never quite did??? After reading a book called Flash Of The Spirit, by Robert Farris Thompson, in which he says those deep south states are heavily Congo-influenced, and another book by Peter Wood, in which he says that Carolina Blacks are more heavily Central African-influenced(rice and fish cultivation)...well, it means there are no easy conclusions to be drawn without some serious research on our story... It is an amazing and stupendous puzzle which we must encourage our children to piece together for the generations to follow...

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  7. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    FACTS ABOUT THE GREAT BLACK MIGRATION...

    I will continue to post some facts, figures, stories, and anecdotes on this topic, as it is one of the great untold stories in this country's history... Our ancestors literally shook up the world during the first 70 years of the last century, transforming it forever... The South Rose Again, but not quite like THEY thought it would(smile!)
    ==========================================================

    In 1890, the year the first census was taken, 91% of the blacks in the United States lived in the South.

    By 1910, the figure changed a little, 89% of the blacks lived in the South.

    During the first World War the migratory flow northward of southern blacks began.

    By 1960, 40% of America's black population lived in the North and the West, as compared with 11% in 1910.

    Between 1950 and 1960, no less than 1,457,000 blacks left the South, and 88% of them went to six states: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

    In 1910, 73% of the black people in the United States lived in rural areas. On farms or in towns or hamlets with a population of less than twenty-five hundred.

    At the time the rural proportion of the white population was 52%.

    By 1960, 73% of the black people in this country lived in urban areas, an astonishing reversal.

    In 1960, 70% of the whites lived in urban areas.

    Blacks moved not to suburban areas but to the centers of the cities.

    In 1960, 51% of all black people in the United States lived in what Census Bureau analyst call the central city section of "Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas."
    ==========================================================


    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  8. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    BLACK EXODUS........

    exodus - African American move from the south to the north
    Essence, Dec, 1999 by Isabel Wilkerson

    Our families sustained an epic movement from the rural South

    THE PICTURE IS SEPIA AND FROM THE FORTIES. Two young women sit on the front steps of a row house on R Street in Washington, D.C., looking very Bette Davis--stacked heels and padded shoulders, wool coats brushing their knees. They're fairly new in town, childhood friends from Georgia who met up again in the big city. They each had left home to make a life they couldn't dream of in a dead-end Jim Crow town in the South. The one in the pearls would eventually become a teacher and, years later, my mother.

    As a child, I found the picture in a drawer in our living room and claimed it. Now I stare into the faces and search the light in their eyes, the width of their smiles for clues. No matter how many times I ask her, my mother can't really convey the answers to my questions in words: How did they get the courage to leave all they ever knew for a place they had never seen? Where did they get the nerve to seek more than the Jim Crow South said they had a right to? What would have happened if she had never boarded the Silver Comet to Washington, never met and married the dashing pilot from Virginia who would become my father?

    What would have happened if all those searching colored people had not spilled out of the South looking for something better? What would New York look like? What would Philadelphia and Detroit and Pittsburgh and Chicago and Los Angeles and Oakland look like? What, for that matter, would the South look like? Would it have changed on its own? Or did the colored hemorrhage force that region to face itself in ways no one could ever have imagined?

    My mother left Rome, Georgia, in the summer of 1944 and never lived in her hometown again. In Washington she stayed with a cousin on R Street and got an office job in the federal government--a crazy, impossible dream for colored girls in the South back then. My mother never used the term Great Migration or any grand label for what she did, nor did she see her decision as having any meaning beyond herself. And yet she and my father, along with countless others in most of our families, were right in the middle defining mass movement of this century.

    The Great Migration gathered momentum during World War I, peaked during World War II and lasted roughly until 1970. In one way or another this movement touched just about every. Black family in the country, as it swept six million people into a river that carried us from the South to all points North and West, transforming us from a rural to an urban people, scattered in an internal diaspora that, for the first time in our history., was of our own making. The migrants went where they had kin, who themselves had gone where the railroads led and the jobs were plentiful. The Jim Crow cars were packed with people from Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia moving up the Eastern Seaboard; people from Mississippi and Arkansas going straight up to the Midwest and people from Louisiana and Texas heading West.

    It was one of the largest migrations in U.S. history, but more important, it was the first mass act of independence for a people who were enslaved in this country for far longer than we have been free. It was the bridge between slavery and freedom on our terms. But because it grew out of everyday individual decisions--so many people doing the same thing for so many different reasons--it was almost too big to see. The first known recorded reference to the migration came in February 1916. Seen as an isolated, random event, the incident merited only a paragraph in the Black-owned Chicago Defender. A war was raging in Europe and, with European immigration having ground to a halt, the North had a labor shortage on its hands. So, few people noticed when, in the deep of winter, several hundred Black families quietly departed from Selma, Alabama, declaring, according to the Defender, that the "treatment doesn't warrant staying."

    That silent march was the first stirring of a leaderless revolution. Black people did not look to a great savior to free them, but rather to themselves and their families, and that may be the greatest lesson for us all as we enter an uncharted millennium. There was no Harriet Tubman to plan and organize the migration. In fact, one of the best known leaders at the start of it, Booker T. Washington, was vehemently against abandonment of the South and strongly discouraged it. Still they left.

    They did not do it alone. In the South, loved ones gathered at train stations and prayed through their tears for the child or sibling who felt it was time to go. In the North, relatives searched the arriving crowds for kin from back home. They put them up on foldout sofas in too-small apartments until the new arrivals could get on their feet. It was a triumph of the African-American family that gets far too little attention in this country, even among ourselves.

    The very possibility of leaving meant that every Black family in the South had a decision to make. As in the old countries of every, immigrant group in the United States, the majority stayed. Millions of others left. Their private and personal decisions, drawn together, helped redistribute an entire population. And even in leaving they helped reshape the South and give teeth to the protests that rose up in their wake.

    When the migration began, panicked White southerners searched for ways to keep their cheap labor from escaping. For a time, some raised wages to induce them to stay. Others used coercion and violence. Several states reenacted old laws from the slavery era, making it illegal for a Black worker to leave. In parts of Mississippi, Blacks caught trying to leave were arrested on railroad platforms.

    The noose-tightening made some all the more determined to leave, and, for those who stayed, brought into sharp relief how desperate the times had become. Everyone now knew that Black people had an option. The telegrams and visits from relatives up North meant Black southerners were no longer the nation's isolated outcasts but well aware of the liberties, however marginal, Blacks had elsewhere.

    The migration gave them a psychological lever, a sense of empowerment. In this atmosphere, those who stayed risked their lives for civil rights that would extend to repressed groups throughout the country and inspire succeeding revolutions. The protest movements of the final third of the century--for women, for peace, for gay fights--owe much to the struggle for civil rights, and thus to the quietly rebellious steps by the participants in the Great Migration.

    They left under circumstances as varied as each of them, but they were all looking for the same thing: their humanity. Most, like my mother, weren't thinking history; they were thinking survival. But something happened, some small or big thing, and, added to all they had been through in a lifetime in the South, suddenly they stood at a turning point. For my mother, it came when she took and passed a test that qualified her for a U.S. government job. That was her ticket out.

    Years earlier her older brother Howard had left because of something more disturbing. It was the mid-1930's. He was in his late teens, working as a driver for an important White man in north Georgia. He'd drive the man to Miami on business, alone with him in the car for hours. He felt at ease with the man, liked him, as my mother tells it, because he let him keep the big, new shiny car after he had dropped him at the White hotel. On his off-hours Howard could then play big shot and give rides to the ladies. On the job he was not only a driver but also an errand boy and janitor all--purpose help--and he liked it.

    But one day, he was straightening up the man's office, when he opened a drawer and saw something white folded inside. He pulled it out and unfurled the fabric that turned out to be a sheet and white hood. Shaking, he put it back. That night he went home and told his parents and sisters he was leaving Georgia for Detroit. He'd get a job at Chrysler like his cousin William. He was joining the Great Migration for the most personal and profound of reasons and, without knowing it, making history.

    Isabel Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 as a reporter at The New York Times, is writing a book on the Great Migration, to be published by Random House.

    States New York Times senior writer Isabel Wilkerson, "The Great Migration was the bridge between slavery and freedom. It should be restored to its proper place in history." See "Exodus" (page 98).

    COPYRIGHT 1999 Essence Communications, Inc.
    COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group[/B]

    Destee, I posted this entire article with attribution to it's original publisher and writer... If that's not cool, I will present the web page, as well - cool???

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  9. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

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    The Great Northern Drive

    Part of "The Great Migration" in the period of 1917-1930 was definitely politically conscious, as documented in "KINGS":
    "Chicago was special in those days because it was a wide-open town where anything went, and everybody who wanted a piece of the action got it, so long as that person supported the right political agenda. That, however, wasn't a problem for the Policy Kings because they controlled the Black vote, a vote that was growing stronger every day since Robert Abbott launched the Great Northern Drive in 1917, known today as the Great Black Migration. It caused hundreds of thousands of sharecrop-era Blacks to leave the South bound for Chicago and other parts north, and every arrival represented another vote in a changing political climate. With the Kings in control of that vote, Policy became the biggest political football in town. Ruthless political-battles-of-the-parties were fought over the Black vote, resulting indirectly in one Chicago mayor's murder. It was the last days of the Prohibition era and the last days of the underworld's principle source of income, bootlegged liquor. To make up for part of that lost income, White underworld bosses across the country launched bloody gun battles against the Policy Kings for control of the lucrative gambling rackets in America's Black Belts.
    In Harlem the enemy was Dutch Schultz, in Cleveland the Mayfield Road Gang, in St. Louis it was Egan's Rats and in Bronzeville it was renegade factions of the Al Capone mob."
     
  10. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    OldSoul, thanks for responding to this thread, man... I know I could count on a brother like yourself...(smile!) This thread is my baby, man... This thing we call the The Great Black Migration WAS in fact loaded with socio-political implications - as well as economic implications... It was a silent statement being made by our mothers, fathers, sister, brothers, and cousins, that the life being offered them down south was not equal to what they regarded as their worth...

    We, in 2004, cannot wrap our heads around what that meant to those southern white folks who had reserved for them a permanent place of scorn and humiliation... We, in 2004, cannot wrap our heads around living in a state of constant terror, constant fear that any small sign of disrespect toward those white folks down there could lead to the death of a loved one, or an entire family... In Philip Dray's book, At The Hands Of Persons Unknown: Lynching in America, he recounts the many times African American men, women, and children were murdered for the smallest offenses, entire African communities taking cover in their homes for weeks after these lynchings... We cannot wrap our heads around that, because 6-million African Americans decided they'd had enough of that, and still others, who stayed to put an end to this barbarism... They all deserve our never-ending gratitude for their clinging to their humanity as they did, for they did not find the promised land up north, or out west... They found more of the same kind of tribulation, though less overt...

    But the most important thing to me is not our ancestor's trials and tribulations... It is their fierce determination to work, smile, sing, party, and enjoy their lives, in the face of a society that relegated them, and even their children yet unborn, to a life of perpetual pariahs... I'm proud to be the son of two of those Black Southerners... Because of them, I am the man I am, and I am a good man - in my humble opinion... I know that a whole bunch of us have allowed the lessons those humble people taught us about life to be replaced by some hip, slick, city-quick bull****, but that's alright... I've decided to keep on clinging to the sweet memories of those humble souls... Those lessons are the ones that have sustained me through the bittersweet vicissitudes of my life(smile!) Sweet Soul Music...

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
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