The Great MIgration and the American Dream
The Great Migration was a push factor towards the American Dream for African Americans to move North to get away from racial segregation and discrimination, poor economic conditions, and job opportunities that opened up which led to the improvement of their lifestyle.
During the time period of 1910 to 1930, the Great Migration had occurred. According to Ryan O’Hare, Over six million African Americans had left the South to escape the poor economic opportunities and social segregation and moved to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West. They were trying to escape racism and Jim Crow laws that were placed in the South. The causes leading to the migration were decreasing of cotton prices, the lack of immigrant workers in the North, increased manufacturing as a result of the war, and the strengthening of the KKK. The migration led to higher wages, more educational opportunities, and better standards of life for some African Americans.
While in the South, many African Americans were facing racial segregation and discrimination. In, 1914 every Southern state had passed laws that created two separate societies: one black, the other white. The combination of constant humiliation and segregated education for their children made thousands of African Americans leave the South. They could not ride together in the same railroad cars, sit in the same restaurants, or sit in the same theaters as whites. African Americans were denied access to parks, beaches, picnic areas, and from many hospitals. There was segregation in hotels, stores, entertainment, and libraries. All this fueled an atmosphere of racism and a rise in lynching, rioting, and the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK continued to create violence during this period. They were murdering African Americans to prevent them from voting and participating in public life. They were lynching for any violation that was committed and had burned them alive, shot them, or beat them to death. Although this didn’t stop African Americans to achieve their dream.
African Americans thought of the North as a place where dreams could be met. They soon started moving to the North to search for the American Dream they knew about. To get to the North, most African Americans traveled by train, boat, and bus. Some African Americans had automobiles that they used and a small number had horse-drawn carriages that were used for migrating. According to Alan Desentis, Economic conditions had also motivated African Americans to the leave the South. Other factors that led them to move were unfavorable terms of trade, unequal distribution of property and income, and the pressure of rural property. Economic conditions such as the exacerbation by the limitations of sharecropping, farm failures, and crop damage from the boll weevil made it difficult for African Americans to live a better lifestyle in the South. In the North, World War 1 created a huge demand for workers in factories, many African Americans took this opportunity to get away from the economic conditions that led them suffering in the South. The need for more workers was urgent as white workers were being sent off to serve in the armed forces. Racial prejudice had kept companies from hiring African Americans, but the profit they stood to make during the wartime economy overrode any hiring prejudice.
Though companies were desperate for workers, many industries central to the flourished war economy like steel mills and railroads actively recruited African Americans. Industrial jobs that had not been previously available to African Americans now became available in greater quantity and variety. The Promise Land was envisioned as a place for anyone willing to work hard, offering opportunities mainly to educate men and women. Despite tensions between new and old settler, relation to differences in age, region of origin, and class, the Great Migration established the foundation for black political power, business enterprise, and union activism.
The American Dream was evident in the Great Migration, for it had shaped the future pathway for African Americans. They overcame obstacles such racial segregation and discrimination, poor economic conditions, and the findings of new jobs. Even though most African American parents didn’t have many opportunities during this time period, their children would have the opportunity to reshape professions such as sports and music to literature and art by proving that anyone can achieve the American Dream no matter their ethnicity or gender.
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