History 17B Lecture 2 Race and Segregation Page 8


D.  Black Migration

The response of millions of African Americans who suffered in the South was to leave.  Attracted by the promising stories of northern cities that told of plentiful work, high wages, and even free rent, by 1930 some two million blacks migrated out of the South.

But the opportunities that they hoped for didn't always materialize as the black migration sparked an explosion of white resentment.  There was confrontation in the workplace and blacks were largely restricted to employment as servants, porters, waiters, and janitors.  Tension reached a boiling point when in 1919 rioting broke out in Chicago:  23 blacks and 15 whites were killed, while 342 blacks and 178 whites were injured.  Only the state militia could restore order.  You can read more about the 1919 Chicago Riot, as well as view newspaper accounts and photos, at Jazz Age Chicago.  


1919 Chicago Riot


E.  Dawning of a Distinctive African American Culture

Thus most American blacks accepted the reality as it was at the turn of the century - an America dominated by a color line.  As African Americans were segregated into their own public space in both the North and South, large urban centers such as Harlem and Kansas City became thriving black communities where even whites ventured into clubs and speak-easies to experience black jazz and dance.  African Americans expressed themselves through fiction and poetry as they searched for an identity.  What did it mean to be African American?   There was an increasing consciousness, an awareness of division that contributed to a distinctive black culture that drew on the richness of their African heritage and the white culture that they were forced into; and they drew on that richness as they continued to fight on for respect and dignity from whites.


VII.  Conclusion

So - while the Civil War had ended slavery as an institution of forced labor, it did not end the belief of white superiority which rose in the form of institutionalized racism in the post-Reconstruction South.  In fact, as we will see throughout this course, African Americans were not the only racial and ethnic minority to suffer from white racism.  For even as the fighting stopped on the fields of Shiloh and Gettysburg, there was still a frontier to be "won" between the Mississippi River and California - and Indian removal was the goal.


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