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The Great Migration And Its Modern Parallels Essay Sample

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The Great Migration And Its Modern Parallels Essay Sample

The Great Migration of African-Americans from the southern states to the north between 1910 and 1920 yielded far-reaching impact on black self-actualization. The modest prosperity derived from employment opportunities was the basis of an emerging cultural identity for African-Americans who migrated as well as providing a symbol of hope for those who remained in the south all of which is paralleled in the new migration of immigrants from Mexico who share a commonality with the African-Americans of the early 20th century.

When examining the history of the Great Migration it can be said prosperity sometimes originates from an unlikely source. For southern blacks in the early part of the 20th century economic opportunities were limited and the potential for change non-existent. The situation in the south that lead to the Great Migration was  the collapse of the south’s agricultural economy. “Prior to the migration, hundreds of thousands of African American men and women living in the South were engaged in some form of agricultural production — either as tenant-farmers or sharecroppers. The years between 1914 and 1917 marked a sharp decline in southern agricultural production due to natural phenomena.” (Baskerville)  When a chain of events culminated in the outbreak of World War One, huge troop commitments were required and thousands of males in the north enlisted en mass.

This propelled a need for labor in the industrial north and opened doors for African-Americans whose skills were required to keep the American industrial economy alive. This was the impetus of the Great Migration where “most African Americans who moved from the South to the North settled in cities, where the factory jobs were located.  Many Northern businesses advertised in Southern newspapers or sent recruiters to the South to hire African Americans for Northern factory positions” (Ohio) and to escape the ugliness of the Jim Crow south.

The north also provided the impetus for a sense of instilled pride as African-Americans who worked in the factories understood the jobs they held were important. The presence of the black workers was even appreciated which was a source of empowerment. The embodiment of African-American pride and empowerment was visible in the establishment of black owned newspapers that communicated inspiration to oppressed southern blacks when the newspapers distributed to them reported positive information to them. Granted, there were exaggerations in these papers regarding life in the north as racism and segregation maintained a presence there as well. Ultimately, this prosperity and identity affirmation would be shortlived when the closure of World War One brought the soldiers home who wanted the factory jobs back. “Race riots occurred in Northern states, as some whites feared that they would lose jobs to the migrants, who commonly were willing to work for less than other people.”  (Anon)

The Great Migration significantly parallels the current environment in Mexico where “globalization and economic restructuring have intensified inequality in Latin America, generating unemployment and underemployment” (Suárez-Orozco) making the economic opportunities present in the United States for Mexican immigrants highly prized.  Similar to the African-Americans of the Great Migration, Mexican immigrants fill an employment void created by Americans disinterested in laborious work that pays poorly.

From this, the visible similarities between the Mexican immigration experience and the Great Migration are fairly pronounced. “The extraordinary Mexican-origin population growth in Nevada, Georgia, Arkansas, and North Carolina during the 1990s is tied to the explosion of new jobs in construction and service, meat, and poultry industries in those states.” (Suárez-Orozco) The income derived from these job opportunities allow Mexican immigrants to export hope to families in Mexico by sending income earned in the United States to Mexico. This allows the person who is sending income to Mexico to draw pride from the fact that the individual can be perceived as a “breadwinner.” This is similar to the sense of achievement projected by African-Americans who found prosperity in the North; and exporting monetary funds from the United States allows Mexican immigrant to project an image of success similar to the way black owned newspapers allowed a sense of pride to be exported to the south.

            The history of the Great Migration of the early 20th century and the history of the current influx of migrant workers are complex one, but within the complexity are obvious similarities. From these similarities, it can be said that the dominant factors of all immigration experiences involve self-achievement and economic opportunity, concepts that have been motivating human beings since the dawn of time.

Works Cited

Anonymous. 02 February 2005. Great Migration 08 October 2006.

URL http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=502 

Baskerville, John D. Date Unknown. The Rural To Urban Black “Great Migration.”

08 October 2006. URL http://ci.coe.uni.edu/facstaff/zeitz/museum/migrate.html.

Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo M. Date Unknown. Mexican Immigration and the Latinization

of the United States. 08 October 2006.  URL http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~drclas/publications/                            revista/mexico/Suarez-Orozco.html

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