Second Great Migration Leads to more Hard Times

September 23, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

After the abolition of slavery the majority of African Americans continued to live in the south. A lot of people continued to work on farms, only this time as sharecroppers instead of slaves, a lifestyle that most people would consider just as tedious and difficult as being a slave on a farm. African Americans were still under the control of the white landowners and forced to deal with constant ridicule and negative attitudes displayed by the white landowners. Then the New Deal allowed landowners more money for fewer crops which lead to the evicting of southern sharecroppers.[1]

By the 1930’s the Great Depression, the end of sharecropping and consistent violence had forced many African Americans to migrate to urban cities in the hopes of surviving and acquiring a job. This increase in African Americans in large cities also brought many black doctors and lawyers to the big cities as well to help other black people. Maurice Rabb was a black doctor in Shelbyville Kentucky, but was forced to move to Louisville because work was hard to come by in Shelbyville. He was often times paid in food instead of money.[2]   

After many blacks had successfully traveled to major southern cities from the rural areas in search of jobs and a steady income the New Deal struck again in the favor of whites. The National Recovery Administration (N.R.A.), designed to create more jobs and fair wages for everyone, ended up simply evicting blacks from their jobs in the cities because a lot of people fired blacks in order to hire whites. Companies thought that if they had to pay whites and blacks the same amount of money, that they would only hire white employees and this is why many African Americans considered the N.R.A. to actually stand for the “Negro Removal Act”.[3] African Americans truly believed and hoped that the policies of the New Deal would help bring equality to the work force but the N.R.A. had two different pay scales for black people and white people.[4]

African Americans clearly had hard times as sharecroppers in the south, but even after migrating to large urban cities like Louisville, blacks were forced to deal with unfair wages created by loop holes in the New Deal and constant racism from people everywhere. Despite these facts of struggle, African Americans are now thriving in urban areas and have acquired a more equality and equal wages in the work force.  


[1] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[2] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[3] Luther J. Adams, “’Headed for Louisville:’ Rethinking the Rural to Urban Migration in the South, 1930-1950,” Journal of Social History 40 (winter 2006), 407-430.

[4] Sears M. James, “Black Americans and the New Deal,” The History Teacher, Vol. 10 No. 1., (November 1976), 92.

2 responses to Second Great Migration Leads to more Hard Times

  1. This article is a clear indication of the intent of a law having the adverse effect. I would like to think that responses to the National Recovery Act (N.R.A.) ultimately lead to things like Affirmative Action. Good job in highlighting the fact that the new deal turned out to be a raw deal.

  2. It is so interesting to me that sometimes even when something in meaning to help it actually makes the problem worse. NRA reminds me of a law passed in NYC right before prohibition. the law stated that business could not serve alcohol on Sundays unless it was a restaurant or a hotel. So bars but up a few beds in the back sold alcohol then rented the rooms out to prostitutes.

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