Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Great Migration: One Church's Story

From 1916 to the 1970s, more than six million African Americans moved North in search of better work, better pay and better lives in what has since been labeled the Great Migration. Most moved to large cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and New York where the influx of new residents helped shape the future of those communities. In some places, such as New York’s Harlem, these new residents created large, tightly knit neighborhoods where African-American art and music thrived. In Chicago, the Great Migration influenced culture and pumped new workers into the factories during wartime. But smaller industrialized cities in the North, such as Brockton, were also seeing an increase in African-Americans moving from the South.

Some moved to be with family, others were encouraged by new opportunities free of Jim Crow laws. In these smaller cities, they lived quietly, worked hard and raised children. Some rose to management positions at work, stayed active in church, earned college degrees and pressed the importance of education to their children and grandchildren.

The stories here, reported and written by Stonehill College students, provide glimpses into the experiences of those in the Greater Brockton area who left the South during what is considered the end of the Great Migration.

Students interviewed members of the Messiah Baptist Church, one of the oldest and most active African-American churches in Brockton, Massachusetts in the Spring of  2015, to document their journeys.

These are stories of lives filled with the riches of family, religion and a love for education. These are also stories of people overcoming racism and refusing to let that battle define them.

Maureen Boyle, journalism program director