For many African Americans of Irish heritage, they have to first trace their ancestors back into the Southern United States. This blog will focus on “The Great Migration” which was the first massive exodus out of the South. By 1900 about 90% of blacks lived in the South. The years 1910 through 1930 (some historians see 1916-1940) saw 1.6 million blacks leaving. There are some general migration patterns, although not set in stone:
Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas westward to: Oakland and Los Angeles, California.
Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas northward to: a.) St. Louis, Missouri (onward to Quincy and Springfield in Illinois), b.) Davenport, Iowa and c.) Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee northward to: a.) Louisville, Kentucky, b.) Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, c.) Indianapolis, Indiana, d.) Chicago, Illinois, e.) Milwaukee, Wisconsin, f.) Detroit, Michigan, g.) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia northeastward to: a.) Richmond, Virginia, b.) Washington DC, c.) Baltimore, Maryland, d.) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, e.) Newark, New Jersey, f.) Albany, New York City, Buffalo and Rochester, New York, g.) New Haven, Connecticut, h.) Boston, Massachusetts, i.) Providence, Rhode Island.
There were many reasons for leaving. Racism (lynching, terror, and Jim Crow Laws) was not the only reason. Many left seeking employment away from sharecrop farming. They took urban jobs in the service industry NOT in the factories and in the heavy industry.
Blacks replaced whites who originally held those jobs. Another reason for leaving was to provide a better education for children and have a voice. Other factors contributed, such as the Great Mississippi Flood (1927), which displaced hundreds of thousands of farm laborers.
The majority of migrants were from the rural South. Also during this time period, settling in the same cities were poor rural Europeans. Both groups were competing for the same jobs in the service industry, with the railroads, meatpacking plants and stockyards being favored.
When tracing a Great Migration family, the 1910, 1920, 1930 and newly released 1940 U.S. Census are essential tools. Once you know a state of birth, then you are ready to work backwards. This is where the adventure really begins!
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