The Great Migration: Background information when reading The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

By Ayana Mathis

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

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Beyond the Book:
The Great Migration

The Great Migration describes a large-scale movement of African-Americans out of the South between 1910 and 1970. Hattie, moving from Georgia to Philadelphia, would have no doubt agreed with Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson's assessment of the Great Migration as "six million black Southerners moving out of the terror of Jim Crow to an uncertain existence in the North and Midwest."

African Americans began to leave the South shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but in small numbers. By the turn of the 20th century, though, segregation, lynchings, and few employment opportunities in the South, forced many blacks to seek their fortunes elsewhere. So many left during this period, in fact, that African-American population growth froze for a period in Southern states. Some areas in the Deep South even experienced African-American population decline across the 'black belt,' where the cotton crop had been most prominent. In 1910, African-Americans made up half the...

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