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St. Louis, St Louis City Justice Center The Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance

This tension between tradition and modernity helped define the decade after world war. One, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in race relations in america during this time period. So the first major factor that brought about major social and cultural change for african americans. During this era was participation in world war, one world war, one inspired a new hope for ending systemic racism within the united states and when america entered the war, black leaders such as w.e.b du bois, called out african americans around the country to enlist in the army, Hoping that president wilson’s promise to make the world safe for democracy would lead to real changes in the united states as well. Over 400 000 black men answered the call to serve during world war one, and these experiences would greatly shape african americans views over the next few decades. Now it is important note that african american participation world war one did not bring about immediate gains in civil rights. In many cases, black soldiers faced open discrimination from the military and the white house. President woodrow wilson was from virginia and remained a southern segregationist. Therefore, throughout the war the army remained highly segregated. African americans were barred from joining the navy entirely, but world war one changed. The way that an entire generation of black men and women thought about civil rights in america, many african americans, having served their country in the trenches of france, came home more determined than ever to fight against segregation.

These experiences would lead to the rise of black nationalism within the united states and play a large role in the development of the harlem renaissance, which we’ll talk about later in this lecture. A second major factor were the demographic changes occurring in america as a result of the great migration. The great migration was the movement of millions of african americans from the south to cities in the north, which began during world war one and would continue throughout the 1920s. Prior to the war, 90 percent of african americans still lived in the south there. Many african americans experienced fewer economic opportunities and a cycle of poverty created by sharecropping crooked contracts, unfair loans and poor harvests usually left sharecroppers indebted to their landlords with little chance for economic advancement to make matters worse. Most african americans in the south have been disenfranchised through the use of poll taxes and literacy tests with african americans stripped of their political power. White politicians were uh, had created jim crow laws, segregating nearly all part parts of society. These jim crow laws were designed to create two separate societies within the south, with african americans being reduced to second class citizens. Violence was often used to maintain this system, and lynchings were common between 1890 and 1929. Around 2 800 african americans were lynched by mobs. The victims of these lynchings were often falsely accused of crimes and in many cases african americans were targeted because they challenged the rigid social structure established by jim crow by jim crow laws, either by attempting to vote testifying against the white person or speaking out against segregation.

When world war one broke out, thousands of new factory jobs were suddenly created in northern cities. Looking to escape the discrimination and economic hardships of the south. Over five hundred thousand african americans joined the great migration between 1910 and 1920, and another million people would migrate to the north in the 1920s as a result of the great migration chicago’s black population nearly tripled. Between 1916 and 1918., cities like philadelphia, detroit new york and st louis all saw similar growth. Black newspapers, such as the chicago defender, encouraged the great migration as well by circulating stories about economic opportunities in the north and posting jobs and train schedules. For many of the african americans, who became part of the great migration, the north represented a promised land where they could earn higher wages, have access to better education for their children and exercise their rights as citizens. African americans, traveling to the north, did indeed find new economic opportunities, but they also encountered discrimination and resistance from northern whites, as large numbers of african americans moved to places like chicago and new york. They found many of these northern cities very unwelcoming. Many of these cities put racial restrictive covenants into place which were used to keep neighborhoods white, even as thousands of african americans moved into the city. Under these covenants, african americans were legally prohibited from buying renting or leasing property in certain areas of the city creating segregated neighborhoods in the north in chicago, for example.

These racial restrictive covenants led to the concentration of african americans on the city’s south side, an area that became known as the black belt. So this is a really important concept that you have to know in order to understand race relations in america in the 20th century, and even today we tend to think of segregation as being something that only occurred in the south. However, the north was and still is, heavily segregated, especially when it comes to housing. The segregation that was established through restrictive covenants would become reinforced by federal laws in the 1930s. This combination of de facto and legal segregation would create major barriers to african american home ownership. For decades to come, the combination of the great migration and the fear of empowered black veterans led to increased racial tension across america, which took the form of a series of race riots between 1917 and 1923., for example, in east st louis, a riot broke out when Local employers began began recruiting black workers for factory jobs, fearing the loss of work for whites. Violence erupted in july of 1917, leading to the death of at least 40 african americans. In 1919, over 250 people died in over 20 race riots across the country earning it. The nickname red summer, some of the worst violence of 1919, occurred in chicago when a black teenager was drowned by a group of white men. The teenager was attacked by the mob because he had crossed an unofficial barrier that served as a dividing line between black and white beaches on lake michigan.

The chicago race riot lasted for five days and was eventually ended after the national guard was called into the city. When it was over, 38 people had been killed and over 500 were injured. Racial violence continued into the 1920s. In fact, the worst race riot in america. American history occurred in tulsa oklahoma in 1921.. The riot began because a black man was accused of assaulting a white female elevator operator, dick rolland, a black shoe shiner tripped and fell into the elevator operator, causing her to scream and leading to his arrest rumors spread within the community that the woman had been sexually Assaulted and a white mob gathered outside the courthouse where rollin had been taken after his arrest, the mob was preparing to lynch roland. When a group of black world war, one veterans intervened to stop it and protect the courthouse in the confrontation, a white man was shot and the violence escalated. Hundreds of white people descended on an uh on the area of greenwood, which was the black neighborhood in tulsa. Prior to the tulsa race, riot greenwood was a prosperous community with a thriving business district. However, the tulsa race riot left greenwood in flames and when the smoke cleared over 300 african americans had been killed. Over 100 black businesses had been destroyed and 1 200 black owned homes had been burned to the ground, leaving over 10 000 people homeless. Now, despite the discriminatory housing practices and the racial violence, many african americans carved out a place for themselves in the north within black communities across the north african americans created a bold new art form that emphasized a growing black nationalism within the country.

Probably the best example of this is in harlem new york, where black writers, artists and musicians helped pioneer an artistic movement that became known as the harlem renaissance. The harlem renaissance was an outpouring of african american expression which created new forms of music, art and literature. This art rejected black stereotypes of the era and tried to replace them with the celebration of african american culture. The harlem renaissance was driven by black writers such as langston hughes, claude mckay and zora neal hurston, who sought to articulate what it meant to be black in america. Their works also contained a strong theme of protest to the racial conflict that was occurring after world war. One and they argued that blacks were full citizens and social equals to whites, so the harlem renaissance helped usher in the jazz age as black music, such as jazz and blues, became worldwide. Sensations due to artists such as louis armstrong and duke ellington, jazz first originated in new orleans, a blend of blues and ragtime musical styles. Jazz music then spread northward as a result of the great migration becoming popular in dance halls and speakeasies across the country. The invention of the radio also helped popularize jazz in the 1920s and made it the soundtrack of the era. Harlem became a center for jazz music in the united states, featuring regular performance by performances by artists such as bessie smith, fats, weller and cab. Calloway, jazz music created a vibrant night, lift light night life and it became fashionable for whites to visit, harlem’s, dance halls, nightclubs and speakeasies to listen to jazz music.

Some of these clubs were integrated, such as the savoy which opened in 1927.. However, many businesses in harlem were owned by whites and excluded black customers. The most famous of these clubs was the cotton club which frequently featured the music of duke ellington and his orchestra. The existence of segregated clubs were condemned by some in the black community, while others saw the popularity of jazz as a sign of greater acceptance for african americans within the united states. Now the same spirit of uh that influenced the harlem renaissance also impacted politics. One of the more influential civil rights leaders to emerge during this era was marcus. Garvey, marcus garvey was a jamaican board political leader who founded the united negro improvement association and advocated for black nationalism. The unia promoted black separatism and urged its followers to move back to africa, arguing that they would never be treated as equals in the united states. The organization also made attempts to gain greater economic independence within the united states for african americans. Sponsoring black run businesses the unia collapsed in 1925, when the u.s government charged garvey with mail fraud in connection with one of his businesses. However, garvey and the unia would leave a very powerful legacy of activism, inspiring an enormous amount of racial pride among his 4 million black followers. Additionally, garvey’s belief in black nationalism and separatism would have a huge impact on the ideas of later for civil rights leaders such as malcolm x, so the social and cultural changes brought on by world war.

One. The great migration and the harlem renaissance led to a backlash within society and even further tensions within the roaring twenties. Coinciding with these events was the rise of white supremacist groups, especially the ku klux klan prior to 1910. The kkk was a terrorist organization that had operated only within the south, the height of the organization’s power had been during reconstruction, but the federal government had almost completely wiped out the kkk by the beginning of the 20th century. However, in the 1920s, the ku klux klan experienced a rebirth which could be traced to the release of of a film. In 1915., the film was dw griffith’s birth of a nation which was a three hour movie that supposedly told the story of the civil war and reconstruction. In reality, the movie was a piece of confederate propaganda that advanced the idea that the south was heroic in their fight against the north and that reconstruction had been a horrible failure. Within the film african americans, often played by white actors and blackface were represented as unintelligent and threatening to white women, for example, there’s a scene in the film that depicts the southern governments after african americans have been granted the right to vote in that scene. Black congressmen are depicted eating and drinking in the house chambers and making a mockery of government. In contrast, the kkk was portrayed as heroic riding to the rescue of the south and protecting the purity of white women.

Despite the fact that the film was incredibly inaccurate, and none of this actually happened, it became a blockbuster and was shown in movie theaters across the country. A large part of birth of a nation’s appeal was that it had very good production values for the time and audience were drawn into its racist message by its innovative cinematography. The effects of the film were catastrophic. The movie was able to rewrite the history of the civil war and reconstruction in the minds of many americans, and in doing so it reinforced racial stereotypes. In addition, birth of a nation became a powerful recruiting tool for the ku klux klan and, as black americans continue to migrate to northern cities. Throughout the 1920s, the ku klux klan was able to recruit members across the country by the mid 1920s. The klan claimed to have 5 million members. The rise of the ku klux klan. Therefore, in the 1920s, was a direct result of a fear of diversity felt by many white americans. At the time, though, the kkk’s popularity would begin to wane by the end of the decade. It would continue to serve as a white, supremacist and nativist organization in the decades that follow so. As you can see, the roaring 20s created new opportunities for african americans, but, like the rest of the decade, the nation was clearly struggling with its national identity, pitting ideas of tradition against new ways of thinking. We will continue to see the issues of the 1920s impact.

What do you think?

Written by freotech

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