Home        
      Excerpts      
      Reviews      
Table of Contents
About the Photos
About the Author
      Purchase      
The Great Migration
From Chapter 4 of Rosie's Mom

"My dear Sister,...The people are rushing here by the thousands and I know if you come and rent a big house you can get all the roomers you want. ...When you fully decide to come write me and let me know what day you expect to leave and over what road and if I don't meet you I will have some one ther[e] to meet you and look after you. I will send you a paper as soon as one come along.[T]hey send out extras two and three times a day." So wrote a woman who had just moved to Chicago, sending encouragement to family and friends in the South, adding her own very practical help to the seductive call of the newspaper that she promised to send.

That paper–-the Chicago Defender–-could not have been published in the South. In Memphis, when Ida B. Wells wrote editorials denouncing lynching, her newspaper office was destroyed and she was driven out of town. But in Chicago Robert Abbott and his staff felt safe. A transplanted Georgian, Abbott had established the Defender in 1905 and immediately had begun a crusade against the treatment of blacks in the South. The Defender–-sent by mail and carried by black Pullman porters to thousands of people all across the southern states–-did not just condemn lynching; it did not simply criticize the Jim Crow system of rigid segregation. When the war-time labor shortage hit northern industries, it urged blacks to leave the South in a mass migration.



By the fall of 1917, African American women were working in lumberyards, moving piles of lumber and even operating buzz saws. Women's Bureau photograph, courtesy of the National Archive at College Park (RG 86G-6S-7).