The Great Migration brought immense change to the entire American nation, as millions of African Americans left the South in search of social, economic, and political justice. This encyclopedia describes the movement of southern African Americans to the urban North and West in the broadest social, economic, cultural, and most importantly, political context. Entries provide students and researchers with information about the key people, places, organizations, and events that defined the era of the migration from 1900 to the 1990s.
Describes the movement of Southern African Americans to the urban North and West in the broadest social, economic, cultural, and most importantly, political context. Entries provide students and researchers with information about the key people, places, organizations, and events that defined the era of the migration, from 1900 to the 1990s. Each entry provides cross-listings to related entries, suggested readings for further information, and refers readers to relevant Web sites and archival collections. The encyclopedia draws on the expertise of leading scholars in African American history, providing entries that incorporate the interpretations and insights of recent scholarship.
Encyclopedia contributors portray the migrants not as composite characters, but as individuals enmeshed in a complex web of relationships who negotiated difficult circumstances and assumed enormous risks to migrate. Migrants did not shed their southern past and become northerners as soon as they arrived at Chicago’s Union Station. Rather, the migration of black southerners to the North that began during the World War I era was part of a much larger and longer process by which southern blacks had long migrated within the South in search of social, economic, and political justice. Understanding the Great Migration partly as a critical chapter in the history of the South, the encyclopedia devotes space to the social, economic, and political conditions in the South prior to World War I. It also examines how war and migration transformed the South as profoundly as it changed the dynamics of life in the North. Since nearly half of those who migrated north during the period did so during the era of the Great War, several entries emphasize how America’s mobilization for World War I not only fostered the migration but sharpened black critiques of the social and political order of the era. Entries on the draft, military service, changing labor markets, and the uneven expansion of federal power, for example, demonstrate how black Americans— migrants, industrial workers, farmers, domestic servants, men and women, political organizers, and editors—spied possibilities for meaningful change in the era of the First World War. Other entries capture ways in which the war and migration opened fissures and debates within local black communities, South and North; describe the extent and intensity of white, conservative reaction to the migration; explore the family dynamics of the migration; and identify the multiple concerns in addition to the search for work that confronted migrants: finding places to live, establishing childcare arrangements, seeking a place to worship, and maintaining long-distance kinship networks. Other entries convey how blacks described these years through song, art, and fiction and explain the ways in which black migrants encountered not only new worlds of work and politics, but new worlds of leisure and consumption.