I was leaving the South
to fly into the unknown…
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in foreign lands,
to see if it can grow differently,
as if he could drink fresh, fresh rain,
I bend in strange winds,
the answer to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, flourish.
– Richard Wright, author of i Black boy, 1945
During the third meeting, the California Task Force to study and develop compensation proposals for African-Americans examined the reasons for the migration of previously enslaved blacks to the Golden State – and the detailed barriers they faced upon arrival.
During the period that historians called the “Great Migration” – which lasted from the early 1900s to the 1970s – approximately 6 million black Americans moved from the deep south to the north, middle, east and west. A considerable number ended up in California, escaping Jim Crow laws and racial violence and seeking economic opportunities.
Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic History of America’s Great Migration,” described the movement as “a redistribution of people of color.”
“It was the only time in American history that American citizens had to flee their homeland just to be recognized as citizens they have always been,” Wilkerson said, noting that no other group of Americans has been displaced. Similar. conditions.
After President Lincoln signed the Proclamation of Emancipation, the age of Reconstruction began. It was a period of prosperity as some blacks in various countries began to set up businesses and communities; race for (and wins) political office; establish schools and more.
But it was short-lived because of the white reaction, Wilkerson said.
By the early 1900s, white racist Southerners began terrorizing blacks freed by cross-burning and racial violence – and discriminating against them by enforcing Jim Crow laws.
There was an increase in lynchings, and in 11 former slave-owning states a system of shareholders began to take shape that reflected the conditions of slavery.
Under those policies, opportunities for blacks were almost non-existent.
After the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914, there was a shortage of manpower. Factories began to lure Northern blacks to fill vacancies. By 1919, about 1 million southern blacks had headed north.
By the 1930s, the Great Depression had slowed down black migration. But the revival of the exodus from the South, a period that historians call the “Second Great Migration,” began around 1939.
This time, California was a major destination.
As blacks fled the South, Wilkerson said, they “followed three beautifully predictable streams – paths to freedom.” The first two led to the eastern and middle western states. “The West Bank flow,” Wilkerson told the working group, “led people from Louisiana and Texas to California and across the West Bank.”
World War II created an expansion of the country’s defense industry, according to the Southern California public television network. During this time, more jobs were available to African-Americans. California cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland began to see an influx of people of color.
According to KCET, a Southern California public television network, the black population in Los Angeles grew from 63,700 in the 1940s to 763,000 in 1970. Migration was driven primarily by job openings in the automotive, rubber, and steel manufacturing industries. The presence of blacks became apparent along Central Avenue between Streets 8 and 20 in California’s largest city.
“(Black Southerners) were recruited to the North and West to fill labor shortages at factories, mills and steelworks,” Wilkerson said. “It turned out they wanted the job, but they didn’t want the people.”
The response to the Great Migration was “structural barriers to exclusion,” Wilkerson said. Restrictive agreements required white property owners to agree not to sell to blacks, and many areas in large and medium-sized cities were put on the red line to deny services to blacks.
“By law and by politics, the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents of almost every living African-American today (denied) the largest source of wealth in this country: home ownership, the American dream itself,” Wilkerson said.
“Despite the testimony I have heard, I do not see how any person with conscience, character and civilization could not understand that the facts were given,” said the deputy head of the Task Force, Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch.
The purpose of the nine-member working group is to study and develop compensation proposals for African-Americans and to recommend appropriate ways to educate Californians about the working group’s findings.
Sanctioned from 1619 to 1865, legalized slavery in the United States deprived more than 4 million Africans and their descendants of citizenship rights and economic opportunities. After it was repealed, government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels perpetuated, endorsed, and often benefited from practices that disadvantaged African-Americans and excluded them from participating in society.
“In those areas of sugar, rice and tobacco (deep south) there were opera singers, jazz musicians, novelists, surgeons, lawyers, professors, accountants and lawmakers,” Wilkerson said. “How do we know that?” “Because that is what they and their children, grandchildren and now their great-grandchildren have often chosen to become.”
Wilkerson first gained national attention in 1994, when she became the first woman of color to win the Pulitzer Prize for artistic writing in 1994, while being hired as Chief of The Chicago Bureau of The New York Times.
Wilkerson’s parents are both from southern states, but they stayed in Wash., DC, where she was born, after meeting at Howard University. It was her parents ’migration north, she says, that inspired her research on an era that helped shape the country’s current demographics.
“Slavery has lasted so long that by next year, 2022, the United States would have been a free and independent nation for as long as slavery lasted on this earth,” she said.