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One of the first challenges for southern migrants who arrived in Northern cities like Chicago was finding a place to live. One report tells of a single day when 600 families applied to live in 53 housing units. Given the demand, unscrupulous landlords charged high rents for run-down apartments. Rapid population growth was not the only reason black…

Item Type: Photograph
Date: Circa 1929

In this memoir first published in 1952, Charles Denby, an African-American migrant from Alabama, recalls his train ride North and first night in Detroit, Michigan. In 1930, out of work because of the Great Depression, Denby moved back to the South. He returned to Detroit in 1943, where he became an member of the United Auto Workers union and was…

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Item Type: Biography/Autobiography
Date: 1952

This worksheet helps students plan a character and takes notes on primary sources for the activity "Create a Migrant's Scrapbook from the First Great Migration."

Item Type: Worksheet
Date: 2010

In this activity students examine documents from the period of the First Great Migration of African Americans to the North. As they look at the documents, they take notes to build a character of a migrant. Then they create a scrapbook that shows their characters' personal journeys and experiences during the Great Migration. This activity can be…

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2010

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972), the grandaughter of former slaves, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she learned to sing in her family's baptist church. In 1927, at the age of sixteen, Jackson migrated to Chicago where she found a job as a domestic. She joined a gospel choir and earned money as a soloist at churches and funerals.…

Item Type: Biography/Autobiography
Date: 1966

Between 1910 and 1920, as the Great Migration swept north, the African-American population in Chicago and other northern cities more than doubled. Members of established African-American communities tried to help new arrivals adjust to city life. Organizations such as the Urban League distributed cards like the ones below offering advice and…

Item Type: Pamphlet/Petition
Date: Circa 1910

In the United States, the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) increased the demand for industrial production while decreasing the flow of European immigration. Labor shortages in both factories, mines, fields, and service industries meant greater economic opportunities for African Americans willing to move north. Many African Americans heard…

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Item Type: Advertisement
Date: 1916

In 1917, ten-year-old Rubie Bond left Mississippi with her parents and migrated to Beloit, Wisconsin. Her father, who worked as a tenant farmer in the South, had been recruited to work at a factory in Beloit. In 1976, she was interviewed as part of an oral history project documenting the experiences of African-American migrants who moved to…

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Item Type: Oral History
Date: 1976

African-American migrants to the North chose their destinations primarily based on their state of origin: those from Georgia and the Carolinas headed to cities along the eastern seaboard like New York and Philadelphia; migrants from Alabama and Mississippi headed for the Midwestern cities like Chicago; and those from Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee…

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Item Type: Map
Date: 2008

In the early twentieth century, African Americans had plenty of reasons to leave the rural South: disfranchisement, segregation, poverty, racial violence, lack of educational opportunities, and the drudgery of farm life. As the cartoon below from The Crisis magazine shows, lynching stood out as particularly horrific and unjust. Violently…

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Item Type: Cartoon
Date: 1920