The Great Migration

The Great Migration took place from roughly 1910-1940. It is the term used to describe the migration of around 1.6 million blacks from the south to northern states. The Great Migration was triggered mainly by WWI, when there was an extreme decline in European immigration to America and an increase in industrial production. This left many industrial jobs in the North up for grabs, and blacks headed north seeking out these new jobs. According to Foner, they also left the south because the north offered better educational opportunities, a chance to gain voting rights, and just generally the chance to escape the extreme racism they experienced in the North. However, there were still many problems blacks faced after they moved north. Although many got factory jobs, they were not allowed to join unions and were often treated as inferiors in the workplace. The massive influx of black southerners also aroused anger from the whites who lived in the north at the time; now they had to worry about competition for industrial jobs. In addition, racism played a large role in their unhappiness.

Foner covers this topic very superficially and does not do an in-depth analysis or give very specific details about events of the time. However, he highlights many of the major causes and effects of the Great Migration, which gives us good understanding of how it is important in the context of the historical time period we are learning about. He points out that although blacks were seeking and to some extent seizing opportunities in the north, they still faced many obstacles and were not completely free from the prejudices they faced in the south. He also mentions some interesting numbers– such as the 66% increase in the black population of New York City– which give us a better idea of what exactly the implications of this massive change really were.

Blacks that have packed up and are ready to migrate north


1) To what extent did blacks actually realize the right to vote in the North?

2) To what extent was the education offered to blacks comparable to the education offered to white children?

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