African-American history in the Twentieth Century is best summarized by both the Civil Rights Movement, and the lesser known Great Migration, in which a large number of them made a move north, west, or overseas, between the years of 1910 and 1940. The broadest reason for this movement is the Jim Crow laws of the south, in which many of the regulations that were harmful towards those parties, whom were already affected by the institution of slavery within recent memory, were instituted. However, this is far from the only cause, of which there are many that span a wide range of reasons: the WWI economic boom, geographic mobility, and the racial antagonism faced on a widespread basis. The actual migration of African-Americans themselves is nothing new, as Sarah-Jane Mathieu notes in her work on the subject, “Movement has always characterized the African-American experience.”1 Whether it be the willful movement to the north for obtaining rights, or the plunder of these people from their homes, African-American Heritage is one of migration.
There are really two Great Migrations, one of which took place in the reconstruction efforts after the Civil War, the other of which took place in the time period described, in the 30 years following 1910. The former in some ways acted as a catalyst for the latter, with many of the same reasons and parallels notable in both. For example, they both had a root in the Socio Economic woes of the period, with reconstruction and the need for the industrial jobs driving them north, where things were a little more liberal than they were in the south. While these two events had many similarities, the Great Migration itself had a far more lasting impact on the future of the union in terms of socio economics, as the first migration had only a limited scope and fewer options for job growth in the north.
One of the biggest causes of the Great Migration is WWI and the Interwar years that lead to a huge economic boom, allowing many of the African-Americans to search for employment elsewhere, namely in the industrial north where the laws and regulations of the south held less weight, allowing for greater wages, and a more fulfilling life, than could be obtained in the south. The Jim Crow laws were a hugely contributing factor to this movement. They were the successors to the Black Codes and limited the freedoms of many African-Americans as well as their economic opportunities, leading to the Great Migration, which many of them saw to be an opportunity to advance in life and secure their futures. An example of this de jure practice was the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, where the SCOTUS decided that separate is equal, effectively legalizing the segregation that adversely affected the social and economic mobility of African-Americans. What the WWI and Interwar years allowed for geographical mobility promised a way to improve on those fundamental facets of life.
The main factor that had limited geographic mobility for...