The Long-Lasting Legacy of the Great African-American Migration

The Great Migration was a historic migration of the African-Americans from the rural regions of the Southern U.S. to the urban areas of the Western, Midwestern, and Northwestern United States. It occurred during the period between the 1916 and 1970s.

This migration marked a very significant turn of the American demographic history and the distribution of the black population and culture across the U.S. By the end of this migration, more than 6 million African-Americans had moved from the South, settling in the West, Midwest, and the Northwestern U.S.

The great migrations were motivated by the urge or desire to flee from the oppressive economic conditions experienced by the blacks in the South, and the promise of better conditions, better jobs, and greater properties in the North.

The other factors included the social aspects such as unfair legal systems, denial of suffrage, lynching, and inequality in education.

Historically, the migrations are commonly split into two phases; the first phase being between the 1910s and 1930s, then the second (final) phase resuming from 1940s to 1970s.

Not until the 1910s, over 90 percent of the Black Population still lived within the Southern regions of the United States.

Furthermore, statistical records reveal that by the beginning of the 20th century, only 20 percent of the African-American population were living or could afford to live in the urban areas.

However, by the end of the Great Migration in the 1970s, 40 percent of the black population had moved to the North, 7 percent to the West, and about 52 percent were still remaining in the American South.


Moreover, an increased population of the blacks became urbanized. The cities that were largely impacted by this great migration included Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.

The number of African-Americans employed within the industrial areas of these cities almost doubled up by a double digit.

Towards the end of the 1960s, the more than half of the 53 percent of African Americans who remained in the South had finally moved to urban areas. By the end of the 1970s, over 80 percent of African-Americans were already living in the major cities or their suburbs.

The social, demographic, and economic impacts of the Great Migration can still be felt across every aspect of life in the United States, especially within the cities of New York and Chicago.

These include music, black employments, arts and all other aspects of life. The South was left with no option but to change in almost every activity since it was losing a large population if its workforce.

To the receiving regions (cities), there was the creation of ghettos and suburbanization as the black population increased gradually. An increase in the population of a city means a corresponding need for employment and resources.

However, due to a large number of black people who were unemployed, crimes within the cities also increased as people looked for the alternative ways of survival.

This explains even the recent situations or cases of crimes within the major cities such as New York.


Written by PH

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