How Southern Landowners Tried to Restrict the Great Migration

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When more than six million African Americans left the South for better opportunities in the North and West, between 1916 and 1970, their relocation changed the demographic landscape of the United States and much of the agricultural labor force in the South. This decades-long, multi-generational movement of Black Americans, known as the Great Migration, impacted southern labor to such a degree that white landowners resorted to coercive tactics to keep African Americans from leaving.

After Reconstruction ended in 1877, Jim Crow segregation became the law across the South, restricting political, economic and social mobility of African Americans. According to The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, a comprehensive history of the migration by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson, in 1900, nine out of every 10 Black Americans lived in the South, and three out of every four lived on farms. Despite a concerted effort by white southern landowners to make them stay, by 1970, nearly half of all African Americans, about 47 percent, would be living outside of the South.



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