African Americans and the Great Migration

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Although the Great Migration witnessed a mass movement of African Americans from southern states to northern cities, this group had, in actuality, been migrating north for some time but in smaller numbers.  World War I and the Bull Weevil’s attack on farmers’ crops instigated the mass migration and resulted in great numbers of African Americans settling into the inner cities all around the northern and western states. However, while they escaped the lynchings of the south, they did not escape the discrimination and racism. The Great Migration brought unprecedented opportunities for black business owners, black schools, black arts, and, effectively, any societal activity enjoyed by the whites (Painter, 2006). However, racial tensions increased as black migrants began taking over cities which had been predominantly white, resulting in blacks being excluded from well-paying jobs and better housing opportunities (Professor, 2013). 

While African Americans escaped the lynchings of the south through the Great Migration, they did not escape the racism. As a result, legislation was enacted to ensure equal opportunity for black Americans, which included the Fair Housing Act prompted by the historical practice of eliminating access to housing by clauses in lease and sale agreements prohibiting blacks from residing in particular homes or from purchasing them.

Most significant, however, is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ensured the rights for African Americans to vote, to access public services which had traditionally been available only to whites, ensured equal employment opportunities, and ensured equal access to educational and federal government programs.


Painter, N. I. (2006). Creating Black Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Professor. (2013). The Great Migration. Class Notes.