The Great Migration

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
10:00–11:30 a.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


James Grossman
Executive Director, American Historical Association

About the Seminar

Framing Questions

  • Let us begin with the letters:
    1. Who are these people? What do we know about them?
    2. Why are they writing these letters? How can we evaluate the letters as sources?
    3. What might one expect their reaction to be to what they find in the North?
  • What is the difference between causes of migration as a historical phenomenon, and the motivations that stimulated men and women to move?
    1. Why does that difference matter?
    2. Reading the letters, are “pushes” and “pulls” the best way to conceptualize the impulses for the Great Migration? How do we separate a “push” from a “pull”?
  • What would you want to look at in a northern city in 1916 to predict whether black Southerners were likely to find what they were seeking?
  • What sources would a historian explore to find out whether black southerners felt that they made the right decision in migrating North?

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Assigned Readings

  1. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. (excerpts) by James R. Grossman.
  2. Black Protest and the Great Migration. (excerpts) by Eric Arnesen.
  3. "The Migration of Negroes," The Crisis, by W. E. B. DuBois
  4. "We Tho[ugh]t State Street Would Be Heaven Itself" Black Migrants Speak Out.
  5. "Letters of Negro Migrants," (excerpts), Journal of Negro History.
  6. map of Chicago Defender circulation, Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration, by James R. Grossman.
  7. "The Awakening," political cartoon, Chicago Defender.
  8. "The Making of African American Identity: Vol. III, 1917-1968," from the National Humanities Center's primary source collection.
  9. The Negro in Chicago (excerpts), A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations.

Seminar Recording