A black family arrives in Chicago from the South, ca. 1919 (BlackPast.org)
From World War I through the Civil Rights era, more than 6 million African Americans left the Jim Crow agrarian south for the industrial urban North in a movement known as the Great Migration. Many blacks ended up creating their own communities within big cities, fostering the growth of a new urban African-American culture. The most prominent example was Harlem, a once all-white neighborhood in New York City that by the 1920s was home to some 200,000 African Americans. The black experience during this time became an important theme in the artistic movement known first as the New Negro Movement and later as the Harlem Renaissance, which would have an enormous cultural impact on the era. Members of the Great Migration also engendered an increase in political activism as African Americans—disenfranchised for so long in the South—found a new place for themselves in public life in the cities of the North and West.
Spencer Crew, the former director of the American History Museum and a professor of history at George Mason University, takes an in-depth look at this pivotal movement in America’s history.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)