Book Speech: The Great Migration of Black Americans
For my American history class that focused on the post-Civil war area, our final project included reading a book about a time period and then giving a critique speech on it to the class. All the books were assigned.
Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with Documents. follows the migration of up to nearly half-a-million Black Americans during World War I to the urban north. Using documents to back up the historical account, the book highlights the social, economic and political conditions of the South.
The book I read I was Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with Documents by Eric Arnesen. The book itself is a collection of documents written by people during that time period that talks about the Great Migration of Black Americans from the South to the North during the years of World War I and the postwar era. The documents themselves are firsthand accounts, newspaper articles, and letters written to officials.
The documents provide both supporting views of the reasons why they were moving to the North and gave views that warn and oppose the migration to the North. What I found interesting is that several black writers opposed the migration to the North because it wasn’t going to be different than what they faced in the South. One writer, a black writer by the name of Percy Stone went out of his way to actually claim that because they were used to the climate in the South they couldn’t make it. He wrote:
In answering this call of an apparently better opportunity we are running a tremendous risk, because it is impossible for us to adapt ourselves to a new climate, new conditions and new people without a great deal of suffering.
But just as there was opposition to the migration, several documents highlighted the willingness of folks to uproot themselves from what they new in search of better opportunities. Much how the immigrants of Europe left to escape persecution, the blacks felt persecuted by those who did not want them there. Another document that supported the women’s view was Mary DeBardeleben. She recalled a story told to her by a friend who questioned a black man who was at a train station. She wrote that man pulled out a piece of paper with a skull and cross bone drawn at the top and he read the note to the friend:
You are hereby warned that you and your entire family must be gone from this community within forty-eight hours. Your attention is called to the symbol at the top of this notice.
The book also highlighted the protests for reform. World War I sparked a world-wide range of political, social, economic and political conflicts. It also talked about black worlds and the wartime home front and the contributions made by Black Americans during the First World War. It also talked about the protests during the First World War and forged alliances with white workers for better wages and safer working conditions. It also covered the obstacles many Black Americans faced in the postwar era. It also covered postwar migration.
Above all, the book is gives more depth into the black migration and the protests during this time of black migration.