The Great Migration: from Rural to Urban

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During the twentieth century, the most critical mass movement of African American people occurred in history other than the forced migration of slavery. African Americans departed from their homes in droves in search of opportunity. In the early 1900s, most blacks remained in rural areas of the South. It was not until the First World War, which started in 1914, that a decisive change in the racial composition of the nation’s cities came about. According to Elsa Barkley Brown and Thomas C. Holt, editors of Major Problems in African American History, “Between 1910 and 1930 more than a million African American men, women, and children left their homes in the south and took up residence in mostly urban areas throughout the country” (126). Within that period, an estimated half-million African Americans migrated between 1916 and 1921. “This period of rapid population shift is known as the Great Migration” (Brown and Holt 126). Also, thousands of black immigrants from Caribbean countries entered the United States during this time period to settle in urban areas. Because of the huge impact of these migrations on African Americans and on the nation at large, it is important to understand the causes and patterns of migrations, why migrants decided to relocate and how they organized, how migrants were received by African American already living in urban areas, how migrants expectations were met, and institutional and cultural changes as a result of this movement. There were many causes of the rapid growth of African Americans in urban areas during the twentieth century. The causes can be separated into push and pull factors. The push factors were those factors that pushed African Americans from the rural South toward Northern and urban areas. Among these push factors were: natural disasters and threats to cash crops, poor racial relations, lack of educational
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