The Great Migration was the migration of thousands of African-Americans from the South to the North. African Americans were looking to escape the problems of racism in the South and felt they could seek out better jobs and an overall better life in the North. The Great Migration created the first large, urban black communities in the North. The North saw its black population rise about 20 percent between 1910 and 1930. Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Cleveland saw some of the biggest increases. It is estimated that over 1 million African-Americans participated in this mass movement.
During the first decade of the 20th century, the infestation of southern cotton crops by insects called boll weevils diminished production and curtailed the need for farm labor. The CHICAGO DEFENDER, the most influential black newspaper encouraged blacks to leave. The paper held visions of the north as the land of freedom, a dream that has been in the hearts of black men and women since slavery time -- many referred to the North as "The Promised Land" With black labor leaving the South in large numbers, southern planters tried to prevent the outflow, but were ultimately unsuccessful. They knew that the North promised relief from Jim Crow and other forms of racial oppression in the South, but it was difficult for African-Americans to find employment outside the South. Northern industrialists were reluctant to hire blacks when they could draw upon a seemingly unending supply of European immigrants. Soon after the outset of World War I, however Northern employers turned their attention Southward as immigration ceased and production orders began pouring in from manufacturers eager to make profits from war production. The more progressive southern employers tried to promise better pay and improved treatment. Others tried to intimidate blacks, even going so far as to board northbound trains and to attack black men and women to try to force them into returning to the South.