Skip to Main Content

The Great Migration: Getting Started

This is a guide to the work of Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series with information and resources on the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural south to northern cities across America during 1910 and 1970.

The Great Migration

African American family from the rural South arriving in Chicago, 1920.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library (1168439)

From 1916 to 1970, during this Great Migration, it is estimated that some six million black Southerners relocated to urban areas in the North and West.

The “push” factors for the exodus were poor economic conditions in the South—exacerbated by the limitations of sharecropping, farm failures, and crop damage from the boll weevil—as well as ongoing racial oppression in the form of Jim Crow laws. “Pull” factors included encouraging reports of good wages and living conditions that spread by word of mouth and that appeared in African American newspapers. 


Jack Delano, photographer. Group of Florida migrants on their way to Cranberry, New Jersey, to pick potatoes. Near Shawboro, North Carolina. 1940. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.