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One of the most enduring images of the Great Depression was Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," which evokes the extreme poverty and anxieties of those who left their homes to move west in search of work. This experience, also evoked by John Steinbeck's novels, indeed reflected a major population movement pattern. Hundreds of thousands of midwesterners and southerners, many of whom had been evicted from failing farms, moved west in enormous caravans. Once in the West, they sought jobs in farm labor, and industries that were emerging in California. This trend continued even with the economic expansion of the Second World War, as millions flocked to the shipyards and other centers of the defense industry on the West Coast.
Another of the trends during the war was a continuation of black migration to northern industrial centers, a process that had begun with the so-called "Great Migration" in the years immediately before and after the First World War. During the Depression, at least 400,000 blacks left the South for urban centers, especially in the Midwest. They left the extreme poverty and the degredation of the Jim Crow South (a popular slogan among Georgia politicians was "No Jobs for (black men) Until Every White Man has a Job.") Yet they found similar conditions in the North, as whites fiercely protected dwindling jobs and Northerners responded with anger at the prospect of sharing neighborhoods with newly arrived African-Americans.
Another enormous migration pattern was the movement of Mexican-Americans back to their nation of origin. Many had come to the United States during the boom years of the Twenties, but hard times drove them back to Mexico. At least 400,000 Mexicans returned, many of whome were forcibly deported, a deliberate policy by the Hoover Administration in response to white jealousy and prejudice. Estimates are that almost half were American citizens.
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