Migration is defined as “moving from one country, place or locality to another” by the Merriam Webster dictionary. Throughout history various groups of people have migrated in small and large movements alike on a local and global scale. The reasons for changing locations may stem from a number of circumstances ranging from economic to political to social. These also vary depending on whether the factor is pushing the migrants away from their current lands or whether an attractive factor in the new land is pulling the migrant toward this opportunity. Economic factors may include job opportunity, escape of less than ideal geographic or weather conditions or flight from overpopulation. Political reasoning may encompass escape from war, invasion, persecution of specific groups of people, military takeover, or forced migration. Finally social reasons may involve spreading a religion or belief system or pursuing a particular lifestyle or freedom. Regardless the reason for migration, however, it is a circumstance that our world cannot live in absence of. Without migration, people are content and the push for change is not brought about. Therefore, migration is energizing and infuses intellectual capital by allowing people to communicate and spread their good ideas.
One remarkable movement of people is The Great Migration, which was the exodus of over six million African Americans from the South to the North between 1916 and 1970. Both push and pull factors influenced this great movement of a particular race. The most common push factor was the unfair laws and racist behavior towards blacks in the South, and the primary pull factor being the significant job opportunity in the North that resulted from the World War I industrial economy. Every migrant’s journey differed but most African Americans experienced grief and longing when leaving their homes in the South and experienced racism unsatisfactory working conditions, and competition for adequate living space among their race in the North. This defining moment in history was recorded by the work of many artists, poets, songwriters and writers throughout the 20th century. Often from personal experience, artists had the opportunity to capture both the trials and tribulations, while sometimes capturing the hope for a better future. We will look into the work of several notable black artists of the time whose work reflects the Great Migration and assess the perspectives and reactions that each had to such a noteworthy movement in history.