For the history of African Americans in the United States, WWI was transformative on many landscapes which include the social, economic, and political future for African American citizens. As I researched about the roar of the early 1900’s, I learned that, “African Americans contested the boundaries of American democracy, demanded their rights as American citizens, and asserted their very humanity in ways both subtle and dramatic” (African Americans and WWI, 2004). African Americans moved towards the North from the oppressive southern states seeking a better life and seeking to become equal contributors to the United States economy. The harsh reality though of all of this progressive action, was that these African American were going to face new forms of segregation within the Northern States.
At the turn of the 20th century, between the years 1915 and 1920, “roughly 500,000 black southerners packed their bags and headed to the North, fundamentally transforming the social, cultural, and political landscape of cities such as Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit” (African Americans and WWI, 2004). This “Great Migration” would reshape the United States of America as entirely.
In addition to the decision moving North, I discovered that when African Americans began to travel North in search of a new life, they often encountered difficulty traveling. “Some African American travelers paid equal fares to whites, while others sometimes paid more expensive fares than whites for similar travel. Clerks at ticket counters in the South frequently ridiculed and yelled at African American passengers… and some police officials in small Southern town detained travelers without provocation” (African American Connecticut Explored, 241).
Although the African Americans were in search of a better life than they had in the South, they faced social, economic, and political challenges when they arrived. These challenges that African Americans faced included living in poverty and debt, poor discriminating jobs with bad working conditions, and the most dangerous of all, they faced harsh hostility from the white population. Since these discriminating actions negatively affected the African Americans, they began to band together and live in close proximity to each other which directly led to the development of “enclaves”. These “enclaves” can be found in Suffield in 1920, as pictured above in a U.S. National Census.
All in all, as the African American population began to transition economically in the United States both during and after the war, this large mass of people will contribute to the changing American society, as well as the American economic landscape forever.
– Work Cited –
- This article helped me understand how the war played a big part in the African American movement North, and the many aspects of oppression they faced.
- This article shows us how the African American culture took off in the US after the First World War.
- This article helps to understand the history of the African American economy and how it changed after WWI.
Normen, Elizabeth J. African american connecticut explored. Wesleyan Univ Press, 2016.
- This book connects the African American economy to actual instances within Connecticut.