What new opportunities did cities create for Americans?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As in the history of other countries, most major cities of America have sprung from ports from which travel and importing and exporting of goods could be accomplished. Thus, immigrants to America initially entered the country by way of the ports. Certainly, the first to land in America and Colonial America came by way of the bays. European immigrants came by way of Ellis Island in the last nineteenth and early twentieth century. Port cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and others became places where pockets of Italian, Irish, Jewish, Portugese, Polish, and other ethnicities quickly settled. When new immigrants arrived, they lived in the neighborhoods composed of their nationality because there they were given support and taught English and the laws of the new nation. Since there was no welfare state in America as there were no taxes, people were often dependent upon their own ethnicity for help and safety.

Of course, people had a better chance of securing work in cities. In 1925 Alain Lokce wrote The New Negro in which he proclaimed a new identity for black Americains.Black culture would be reborn. This rebirth came about after the Great Migration, the movement of African-Americans from the impoverished Deep South to the Northern urban cities. Thus, the Harlem Renaissance began with the migrations after World War I. New York and other Northern cities promised jobs, housing, and educational opportunities.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the civil war, there was an influx of people into the urbanized cities. African Americans and whites moved due to different reasons which were generally centered on better economical and social opportunities.

For African Americans, the cities were bursting with numerous industries that were short on man-power and so this presented better job opportunities with better remuneration for them. In addition to that, the cities offered better quality education as opposed to the one received from the segregated schools sustained by “Jim Crow” laws enforced in the South. Also, African Americans enjoyed improved civil rights because in the cities, black men were allowed to vote without restrictions enforced in the rural South such as the literary test and the poll tax. Apart from that, the cities had less racism which created conducive environment for African Americans to explore and develop creativity paving way for the renowned Harlem Renaissance that facilitated cultural expression through art, music, literature and fashion.

On the other hand, White males were migrating in order to gain better employment opportunities credited to the budding industries.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the years after the Civil War, Americans moved to cities in large numbers.  They were attracted to the cities for a variety of reasons.  Some of these reasons had to do with economic opportunity while others had to do with social and cultural opportunities.

The main thing that attracted most Americans to the cities was the prospect of getting jobs.  During this time, factories were springing up in cities and creating more jobs that lured people from the country.  There were also jobs, many of them for women, in the large department stores that were starting to open in the cities. 

People were also attracted to cities by social and cultural opportunities.  They knew that in the cities they had the opportunity to experience a new way of living.  They had the opportunity to live in places with electricity and indoor plumbing.  They had the opportunity to shop in the new department stores.  They had the opportunity to attend sporting events, vaudeville shows, and other such forms of mass entertainment.

Thus, the American cities offered opportunities that were both economic and cultural/social.