At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.
Streaming Video from the Adams Library
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In the early 20th century, blacks moved north in hope of a better life with little more than a prayer and the shirts on their backs. In this program, poet Maya Angelou, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, and a host of other African-Americans recount the story of the migration, of separated families, and of the hardships, prejudice, and struggle for acceptance in the North that resulted in disillusionment. Black luminaries include James Cameron, author of A Time of Terror; Jacob Lawrence, artist and creator of The Black Migration series; and Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Back to Africa movement of the 1920s. (22 minutes)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and professor Isabel Wilkerson looks at the "Great Migration" that took place from 1915 to 1970 in her book "The Warmth of Other Suns". The migration involved 6 million African-Americans who left the South in search of a better life.
Independent filmmaker Carla Wilson documents the exodus of black people from the inner-city, tracking folks from Chicago as they migrate west to small-town Iowa City, where they struggle to establish roots. Echoing the early 20th-century Great Migration of blacks from southern states to the Northeast and Midwest, this new migration is also about family-friendly housing, jobs, and the search for a better life. Iowa City is a self-identified peaceful community now facing new challenges: supposedly safe havens from urban life are increasingly attractive to the urban underclass, and as a consequence, these communities are compelled to redefine themselves in terms of race, class, and the urban/rural divide. Moving between narrated experience and social scientific data, local and the national scenes, history and immediacy, the documentary profiles a region in transition, providing public administrators, teachers, and private citizens new narratives for self-understanding and action.
The movement of African-Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North is one of the most momentous yet least heralded sagas of American history. This award-winning documentary tells the story of the mid-century black migration through the testimony of some Mississippi Delta natives who relocated to Chicago during this era. A steelworker, newspaper editor, blues musician, and others recall the trip up Highway 61 in search of good factory jobs, and the vibrant city-within-a-city of thriving black businesses that they found. But just as the American Dream was achieved, steel mills and stockyards closed, leaving newer immigrants trapped in decaying public housing projects and inner-city despair. (70 minutes)
This program portrays the Jim Crow era, when African Americans struggled to build their own worlds within the harsh, narrow confines of segregation. At the turn of the 20th century, a steady stream of African Americans left the South, fleeing the threat of racial violence and searching for opportunities in the North and West. Leaders like Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey organized, offering different strategies to further black empowerment and equality. The ascendance of black arts and culture showed that a community with a strong identity and sense of pride was taking hold in spite of Jim Crow. The Harlem Renaissance redefined how America saw African Americans — and how African Americans saw themselves. (56 minutes)
Distributed by PBS Distribution.
In the autumn of 1944, the mechanical cotton picker ended the South's need for people to pick cotton by hand. At the same time, Chicago's munitions factories were desperate for labor. So the great migration North to Chicago moved into full swing. A BBC Production.
Today more than a third of the population of Chicago is black. It's a direct result of the Great Migration between the 1930s and 1970s when more than five million black Americans left the Deep South for "the promised land." The black tenement blocks of the South and West sides of Chicago are now battle grounds for America's most powerful gangs. They are among the most dangerous places in America. A BBC Production.