Jim Crow and the Great Migration

by Jonathan Scott Holloway

In September 1895, Booker T. Washington, the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, stepped to the podium at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition and implored white employers to “cast down your bucket where you are” and hire African Americans who had proven their loyalty even throughout the South’s darkest hours. In return, Washington declared, southerners would be able to enjoy the fruits of a docile work force that would not agitate for full civil rights. Instead, blacks would be “In all things that are purely social . . . as separate as the fingers.”

Washington called for an accommodation to southern practices of racial segregation in the hope that blacks would be allowed a measure of economic freedom and then, eventually, social and political equality. For other prominent blacks, like W. E. B. Du Bois who had just received his PhD from Harvard, this was an unacceptable strategy since the only way they felt that blacks would be able to improve their social standing would be to assimilate and demand full citizenship rights immediately.More »

Featured Primary Sources

Blank Advice sheet for The Birth of a Nation, 1915. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Birth of a Nation, 1915

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Giles B. Jackson to R.C. Burrow, June 22, 1901. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Disfranchisement of African American voters in Virginia, 1901

Creator: Giles Jackson Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Frederick Douglass to unknown, November 23, 1887 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Frederick Douglass on Jim Crow, 1887

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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Multimedia

How did the Great Migration change America?

Speaker(s): Jonathan Holloway Duration: 40 seconds

Jim Crow and the Fight for American Citizenship

Speaker(s): Jonathan Holloway Duration: 2 hours 13 minutes 47 seconds
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