I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown . . . I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps, to bloom-Richard Wright, Author
Happy Black History Month fam! As we continue our Black History Celebration, I cannot help but feel more empowered as I reflect on our history. Let us give consideration to the monumental period that was “The Black Migration”. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has provided us with this year’s theme. Their website was created to continue and honor the legacy of the father of Black History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (check it out!).
This epic event occurred during the 20th century, when many of our African American families intentionally LEFT the south for the north, thereby seizing the opportunity to live peacefully and thrive industriously. With this in mind, I cannot help but reiterate Maya Angelou’s profound quote “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant”.
Despite African Americans being FREE, by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) and the Confederate South’s defeat in the American Civil War (1861-1865), they were not FREE. That’s right, they were Free in theory, but not in practice. W.E.B Du Bois captured that reality by saying, “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.” The intense backlash(whitelash) against “FREED” African Americans was another dark chapter in American History. Because of the lack of employment, housing, and harsh segregation laws, many African Americans traveled from the south to the north to escape the hatred that they continued to suffer. Not to mention terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, lynching, and the rise of the 13th Amendment, which allowed slavery to exist in prisons. What did Blacks do? How would they respond? One of the many words to describe the response of Blacks is EXODUS.
Between 1915 and 1970, six million African Americans left the south to cities like Chicago, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit. Their great exodus was the beginning of a great transition. It was a visual display of taking freedom by any means necessary. The Black Migration produced many great names such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say”—(Psalm 124:1)
As I ponder on this historical time, The Black Migration reminds me of the Israelites’ great exodus (Exodus 14:15-31). They too were made slaves and forced into bondage against their will. Through faith in Almighty God, the Israelites LEFT Egypt in pursuit of the land of milk and honey (Canaan). They stepped out on faith in God. Our ancestors stepped out on faith in God too by leaving the South for the North. In the words of the hymnologist, “We’ve come this far by faith.”
It Is Closer To Home Than You May Think
Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives lived during this time period. They may have experienced the great exodus from the south to the north. Does that alarm you to know that our history is not so long ago? What stories have your family shared with you? Share your thoughts with me.