Suggested Activities

1. Case Study: Understanding the Great Migration

Background Information:

The Great Migration took place during the first two decades of the twentieth century. During this period of time, a massive number of African Americans left their homes in the rural South and migrated to northern cities like Chicago. The Great Migration marked a major change in where African Americans chose to live in the United States. In 1900 of the 8,883,994 African Americans living in the United States only 911,025 (nearly ten percent) lived in the North*. Most lived in the deep South--Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and the Carolinas. Due to rural poverty, racism, and segregation, men and women--young and old--began to set out for the promise of a better life in the cities of the North.

From 1900 to 1910, 366,880 African Americans migrated to northern cities from the South. From 1910 to 1920 between 500,000 and 1,000,000 African Americans migrated to northern cities*.

More about:
*E. Marvin Goodwin, Black Migration In America From 1915 to 1960: An Uneasy Exodus, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd., 1990.

The Case Study Activity

In 1990 E. Marvin Goodwin interviewed 350 elderly black residents of the city of Chicago, who moved to the city from Mississippi between 1915 and 1960. Goodwin wanted to know why these people had migrated to Chicago against great odds. Read the following remarks taken from Goodwin's interviews and group them by economic reasons and sentimental reasons for migrating.

Follow-up Activity

Research the second wave of African American migration north, following World War II.


2. Parallel Experiences

The Great Migration was a movement within America, yet it was like the immigration experiences of other ethnic groups. The following passages are taken from a book written by Hilda Polacheck, a Jewish woman who came to Chicago from Poland in 1892, about her childhood in Chicago.

Like southern black families, most European immigrants arrived in Chicago with little money and few possessions. Often the entire family had to work in order to make ends meet. Like Ruby Livingston, many immigrant women made cloth flowers with the help of their children.

3. Imagined Conversations

Imagine a conversation taking place between Ruby Livingston and Carlotta's mother. What might they say to each other? How might they compare their Write down the conversation alone or with a partner.


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