US Black Heritage: The Great Migration

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US Black Heritage Project


Documenting The Great Migration

Documenting the migrations of families is helpful to genealogy research. If we know where they came from, we can better find other family members they may have become disconnected from.


You may choose to use the Migration Sticker

{{Migrating Ancestor
|origin= Florida
|destination= New York
|origin-flag= US_State_Flag_Images-8.png
|destination-flag= US_State_Flag_Images-35.png

Which gives you:

Flag of Florida
... ... ... migrated from Florida to New York.
Flag of New York

Replace the state names in the template above and use the correct flag image found here: US Flags. Make sure you click twice on the image until you get the URL that ends with .png or .jpg.


We will only be categorizing at the state level with the exception of the main largest cities to which migration occurred (this includes the cities listed below under migration patterns).

Please choose from one of the existing state level migration categories here: Great Migration Categories.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration, also known as the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration occurred between 1916 to 1970. More than six million Black Americans migrated from rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest and West.

The Great Migration resulted in the Harlem Renaissance.

Some causes of the migration were:

  • Poor economic conditions (the North had a shortage of workers and better pay)
  • Factory Jobs in the north during WWI and WWII
  • Racial segregation
  • Jim Crow economy
  • Jim Crow laws
  • Black codes
  • Lynchings

"Some historians differentiate between a first Great Migration (1916–40), which saw about 1.6 million people move from mostly rural areas in the South to northern industrial cities, and a Second Great Migration (1940–70), which began after the Great Depression and brought at least 5 million people—including many townspeople with urban skills—to the North and West."[1]

Concentration of the Black Population in 1900
Migration of the Population During the Two Migration Waves

Most Common Migration Patterns

  1. Distance played a key role in where people moved to.
  2. Chain migration was a key factor (people migrating to join others who went before them).

Phase #1--8 major cities saw 2/3 of the migrants

  • New York City
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • St. Louis
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Kansas City
  • Pittsburgh
  • Indianapolis

Phase #2 Saw additional increases in the above cities along with the western states

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Oakland
  • Phoenix
  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Almost half who migrated from Mississippi during Phase #1 ended up in Chicago.
  • Most of those from Virginia moved to Philadelphia.
  • Los Angeles and San Francisco received a disproportionate number of people from Texas and Louisiana.



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Comments: 11

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Would it make sense to have mid-level categories for From and To? For example, "Great Migration (African-American), Alabama to Detroit, Michigan (0, 12, 0)" would go under both "Great Migration (African-American), from Alabama" and "Great Migration (African-American), to Detroit, Michigan". Then the entire latter category could be added to the more general "Detroit, Michigan" category. Then people looking at Detroit more generally would be more likely to see these. The statewide mid-levels could be added to the state categories, or that state's history sub-category if applicable. (I am not intending to add more to your to-do list! Just wondering if it would be ok to start this)
posted by L Bubniak
edited by L Bubniak
Please see Natalie's answer on your g2g post for this question

We try to keep our category streams as simple as possible.