“Scott and Violet Arthur arrive with their family at Chicago’s Polk Street Depot on Aug. 30, 1920, two months after their two sons were lynched in Paris, Texas.” Chicago History Museum.

In 1876, Congressional Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the former Confederacy. Southern states immediately stripped rights from Freedmen and formerly-enslaved citizens, recodifying white supremacy into law. Coupled with an ongoing campaign of racial violence, this institutionalized white supremacy and racial inequality became a system known as “Jim Crow.” 

The deep injustices of Jim Crow, combined with an increasing availability of industrial jobs, induced millions of Black families to leave the South and seek freedom and prosperity elsewhere. “The Great Migration” brought some 1.6 million Black migrants to cities in the North and West between the 1910’s and 1930’s.

Where is it located in the Museum?
“During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern African Americans.” 1941. The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Even after migrating, Black families still confronted persistent racial discrimination, were denied access to housing and well-paying jobs, and were subjected to hostility and reactionary racial violence, demonstrating that the inequities of Jim Crow were by no means limited to the South. Despite these obstacles, Black migrants created new forms of culture, self-reliance, and community that forever changed their new homes and the United States as a whole. Jacob Lawrence — one of the most prolific visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance — painted a series of sixty paintings depicting the mass relocation of southern Black migrants to cities.

Where is it located in the Museum?

The Great Migration