Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Moving North: African Americans and the Great Migration 1915-1930

Moving North: African Americans and the Great Migration 1915-1930

Monica Halpern
For ages 8 to 10
National Geographic Children's Books, 2005   ISBN: 0792282787

Between 1915 and 1930, thousands of African Americans moved from their homes in the southern states to build new lives in the north. Today we live in a very mobile society. People move from east to west and from north to south easily, but at that time such a move was a complicated undertaking that was full of uncertainty. Why would so many people take such a risk?

To understand what brought this migration about, we need to understand what the south was like in the years leading up to 1915. Though the Civil War brought about an end to slavery, it did not bring an end to racism. At first, during Reconstruction, African Americans did indeed have equal rights. For a time their lives were a lot better. Then Reconstruction ended in 1877, and many of the advances that were made during that post war period were lost.

Many people in the south refused to accept that whites and blacks should be equal, and they set about putting laws into place that deprived African Americans of many basic rights. African Americans could not vote, Jim Crow laws forced them to accept segregation, and African Americans had to make do with inferior schools. They also often had to live with fear hanging over them. They never knew when they could become a victim of violence, and if they were attacked or even killed, they knew that they would get no justice in the courts.

When World War I broke out, factory owners in the north were flooded with orders for war supplies. With so many men going to fight in Europe, the factory owners needed a new source of labor. Black-owned newspapers spread the word that well paid work was to be had in the north, and editors encouraged African Americans to leave the south to fill these jobs.

For those who had courage and who could scrape together the money for the trip, moving north was a huge and often terrifying adventure. They were leaving the only world they knew and heading into the unknown. Single men and then single women paved the way for others, sending home their good news and encouraging family members and friends to join them. When it all began, no one guessed that this migration would have a profound effect on the entire country in the years to come.

In this well written book the authors tell the story of an important event in American history. Readers will come to appreciate why the Great Migration occurred, and what it was like for African Americans to build new lives for themselves in the north. They will get to read the words that some of these migrants wrote, look at their photographs, and read about a few of them who were able to do something meaningful with their lives as a result of their move.

This is one of the titles in the Crossroads America series.