Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 1, 1930

Guest post by Jodi Silvio, History MA student at Arizona State University.

On November 1, 1930, the Pittsburgh Courier ran a piece which claimed to have an answer to the ongoing exodus of African Americans out of the South, which we now refer to as the Great Migration. It pins the cause of the migration on the economic treatment of southern African Americans, as they were typically paid low wages and treated unfairly by whites while working as laborers. Historians commonly note economic motivators as the primary “push” for the massive migrations out of the South, though social factors are also frequently examined in contemporary studies. The article notes, “The South cannot hope to attract and hold Negro labor without some form of Negro leadership to assist them.” The opportunities presented in the North were enough to convince migrants to leave their homes, despite the concerns over systemic racism existing beyond the South as well. The article points out that in order to cease the exodus, southern whites would need to “make living not only possible, but agreeable and comfortable” for those black laborers they were seeking to entice into staying, or returning. Historian James R. Grossman writes in an article entitled “Black Labor Is the Best Labor: Southern White Reactions to the Great Migration” that southern whites were unable to comprehend the complex dynamics involved in the Great Migration, “partly because they could not envision blacks as anything but passive participants in the historical process."112  Though there were whites who understood that changes would need to be made to halt the migration, in the author of the article’s opinion they were “overpowered by the ignorant white masses of the South.” Although historians label 1970 as the endpoint of the Great Migration, the migratory patterns of those who left the South forever altered the social landscape of the cities they flocked to. Had the migration ceased at the time this article was written, a full forty years before what is considered the actual end to the Great Migration, many of America’s cities may have looked quite different today.    

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