movement of African Americans out of the rural Southern United States
The Great Migration, sometimes known as the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration, was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West that occurred between 1916 and 1970. It was caused primarily by the poor economic conditions as well as the prevalent racial segregation and discrimination in the Southern states where Jim Crow laws were upheld.In every U.S. Census prior to 1910, more than 90% of the African-American population lived in the American South. In 1900, only one-fifth of African Americans living in the South were living in urban areas. By the end of the Great Migration, just over 50% of the African-American population remained in the South, while a little less than 50% lived in the North and West, and the African-American population had become highly urbanized. By 1960, of those African Americans still living in the South, half now lived in urban areas, and by 1970, more than 80% of African Americans nationwide lived in cities. In 1991, Nicholas Lemann wrote that:
The Great Migration was one of the largest and most rapid mass internal movements in history—perhaps the greatest not caused by the immediate threat of execution or starvation. In sheer numbers, it outranks the migration of any other ethnic group—Italians or Irish or Jews or Poles—to [the United States]. For blacks, the migration meant leaving what had always been their economic and social base in America and finding a new one.
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.Since the Civil Rights Movement, a less rapid reverse migration has occurred. Dubbed the New Great Migration, it has seen a gradual increase of African American migration to the South, generally to states and cities where economic opportunities are the best. The reasons include economic difficulties of cities in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, growth of jobs in the "New South" and its lower cost of living, family and kinship ties, and improved racial relations.
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