Essential American History: The Great Migration

Jacob Lawrence’s “The migrants arrived in great numbers” (1940-41).
Credit: Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. David M. Levy, The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (Ars), New York. The Museum of Modern Art, via Licensed by Scala — Art Resource, New York

History matters.

The Great Migration is a critical event in 20th century American history. It is the story of “the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.” Historian Jon Meacham notes that “…it is one of the most significant yet little-noted shifts in American history, a shift with an infinity of implications for questions of race, power, politics, religion, and class – implications that are unfolding even now.”

Emmitt Till and Tamir Rice, Sons of the Great Migration, Elizabeth Wilkerson’s telling article [NY Times, February 12, 2016] is an insightful assessment relating how “African-Americans still haven’t found the freedom they left the South for 100 years ago.” This article is an essential follow-up to Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, a powerful account of the “…leaderless revolution that would incite six million to seek asylum within the borders of their own country.”

Wilkerson’s book and article are must reads.

Quotations are from Wilkerson’s book and article, and Jon Meacham’s comments.
Jacob Lawrence’s art appears with the article.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

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