Guiding Question:

  1. How has Immigration contributed to the expansion of American Ideals?
  2. How has the great Migration and the Harlem renaissance contributed to the expansion of American civic ideals?
  3. What are primary and secondary sources?
  4. Can a visual or literary piece be a primary source?

Essential Question: How did African-Americans assimilate in their new roles once they migrated North? How did African-American Migrants retain their cultural heritage while assimilating?

State Standards:
USI.15 Explain the varying roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in the United States.

The Great Migration

armistice a crowd in harlem The exodus that started during World War I diminished the overwhelming southern concentration of the population.

From its beginning in 1916 to its end in 1930, the Great Migration sent nearly one-tenth (1/10) of the African-American population from the South to the North.

By 1930, 89 percent (89%)of the northern black population was urban, while 32 percent (32%) of southern African Americans lived in cities. In the country as a whole, 44 percent (44%)of African Americans were urban by the end of the Great Migration.

Using the following worksheets, examine the photos on the right of this page. The top photo is called "Armistice: a crowd in Harlem" and the bottom photo is called "Settling in Harlem".

Many southern migrants pouring into the railroad stations in Detroit, Chicago, New York or Philadelphia, had the addresses of family members or friends who had preceded them and had settled in black sections of the northern towns. Those who came without knowing anyone were generally steered to these areas by self-appointed helpers who roamed the stations in search of newcomers to assist in exchange for a fee.


"One Way Ticket" was the title of a Langston Hughes poem which spoke of the Great Migration. This poem and the "Farewell, We’re Good and Gone" signs on the trains leaving the South summed up the feelings of many southern blacks at the time of the Great Migration.

Many factors lured African Americans to the North. These factors included:

Moreover, Northerners were recruiting workers for the booming industries and offering economic incentives. Northern Blacks could vote and hold office. African Americans not only hoped to find better jobs in the North but also a new sense of citizenship and a new respect for their families.

In addition to economic factors, the North offered better chances for educational and cultural advancements.

These factors and others led to a despair and hatred for the segregation and violence of the South and thus prompted close to one million African Americans to heed the call of the "Chicago Defender" and migrate North between 1910- 1930. This was known as "The Great Migration".

Communities in the North saw rapidly expanding cities. Migrants enriched these areas with their talents and cultures. Housing was still segregated and jobs were usually menial but there.

The cultural advancement reached its high point in the “Harlem Renaissance”. A small two mile neighborhood known as Harlem became the epicenter of the best African American culture. Art, literature, music took hold and the African Americans here expressed their “individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame” ((Langston Hughes).The main reasons for the Harlem Renaissance were due to the African American Migration and the intellectual awareness that Blacks achieved once they migrated. The Harlem Renaissance, a period in which visual artists, poets, authors , musicians flourished was a result of the Great migration.

In this lesson , Students will have the opportunity to examine photographs, Artworks, Poems, Maps and Literary passages of the Great Migration and the Harlem renaissance, approaching them as primary, historical documents that reveal clues about the time period. By examining these sources ,students will come to understand The Great Migration and how it set the stage for the Harlem Renaissance. Students will also become familiar with primary and secondary sources and how they tell the a story of the past.

Above text from the books

Header Image:Inline Image: Photographs & Prints division division , Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Background Image: Jacob Lawrence "The Great Migration Series"