Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Compare the pros and cons of migrating from the South to the North. In what ways did moving to the North meet the expectations of blacks? In what ways were they disappointed?

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Mary Sutton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Because the previous educator did such an outstanding job in outlining the first part of your question, I'll focus on the second part and more specifically address how the North both met the expectations of black migrants and how migrants were disappointed.

I strongly recommend Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration , not only for general historical facts about the Great Migration—both waves, which include that which occurred at the beginning of the twentieth-century and the other after the First World War—but also for personal stories about...

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Garrett Walker eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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mrkirschner | Student

With the United States being the "arsenal for democracy" for the Allies during the Great War in Europe, demand for labor in factories in the north had skyrocketed by 1915.  Black Americans who had lived in the South for generations were faced with a new opportunity for their families.  Millions of African-Americans would make the decision to leave the agrarian lifestyle of sharecropping and tenant farming for new opportunities in industry.

This movement would present a number of positives and negatives for African-Americans.

Positives:

1.  The South had not truly changed its view on African-Americans and what they believed the racial social order:  sharecropping, lynchings, black codes, Jim Crow laws, and lack of opportunity was a fact of life for African-Americans.

2.  Opportunity for economic improvement in the North was unprecedented.  This would become even more true with American involvement in World War I as labor demand skyrocketed.

Negatives:

1.  Moving to another part of the country is always a scary proposition.  New places, people, and challenges would be faced by African-Americans.

2.  Migrants were met by racism in the North, which while not as overt as in the South, was still a major obstacle.

The migration North was probably most disappointing after World War I when veterans returned from Europe and expected to have jobs in the factories.  This led to wide unemployment for black people and even racial violence in riots in many major cities.  Unfortunately, the Ku Klux Klan would follow African-Americans north where the 1920's saw the apex of the hate group's membership.  

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