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Defining Moments

The Great Migration North, 1910-1970

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Although freed from slavery following the Civil War, many southern African Americans were still impoverished and destitute due to sharecropping and Jim Crow laws. Turning their gaze to the booming industrial cities of the north, millions decided to leave everything behind in hopes of finding freedom and prosperity. Their mass migration from south to north changed the social, political, and cultural face of both regions forever.

Defining Moments: The Great Migration North, 1910-1970 presents an authoritative account of the origins and progression of the Great Migration. It also explores the event’s lasting impact on America’s political and cultural landscape. The volume is organized into three distinct sections—Narrative Overview, Biographies, and Primary Sources—which offer a one-stop resource for student research.

  • The Narrative Overview section provides a detailed, factual account of what led up to the Great Migration, the events and issues during the era, and its legacy in American society
  • The Biographies section presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the era
  • The Primary Sources section collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era, including official documents, song lyrics, memoirs, editorials, and other important works

Other notable features include a glossary of important people, places, and terms; a detailed chronology featuring page references to relevant sections of the narrative; an annotated listing of selected sources for further study; an extensive general bibliography; and a subject index.

Standard Features

  • Library binding, 7 1/4 x 9 1/4
  • 240 pages
  • 30-40 photographs and other illustrations
  • Narrative Overview section: Provides a detailed, factual account of the “defining moment”
  • Biographies section: Presents valuable biographical background on leading figures associated with the event
  • Primary Sources section: Collects a wide variety of pertinent primary source materials from the era
  • Research Topics: Proposes a list of topics suitable for conducting historical research and writing reports, a valuable starting point for student research
  • Source Attribution: Contains references for primary sources and other quoted material that guide users to other historical research resources
  • Glossary of Important People, Places, and Terms: Gives brief definitions for the many terms used in the book
  • Chronology: Highlights the related events in chronological order, along with “see” references that direct the reader to pages in the narrative with additional information
  • Sources for Further Study: Provides annotated citations for selected sources that are most useful to students
  • Bibliography: Lists books, periodicals, web sites, and videos consulted in preparing the volume
  • Subject Index: Includes people, places, organizations, events, and other topics

Research Topics

Each volume in the Defining Moments series covers a wide range of topics that students can use as starting points for further research. Potential research topics for Defining Moments: The Great Migration North, 1910-1970 are below:

  • Investigate the economic, political, and social factors behind the Great Migration, including the “push” and “pull” factors that influence migration
  • Define the characteristics that differentiated migratory patterns in the first part of the 20th century (the First Great Migration) from those of the post-World War II era (the Second Great Migration)
  • Research the history of Jim Crow laws and their effect on the Great Migration
  • Write a story about what it was like to live in the South during the Jim Crow period
  • Describe the development of the black middle class as a result of the Great Migration
  • Discuss the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education on the Great Migration
  • Explore how and if the Civil Rights Movement was an outgrowth of the Great Migration
  • Explore the artistic responses to the Great Migration in literature, music, and the arts
  • Evaluate the economic, political, and social factors behind the Return Migration
  • Summarize the political, demographic, social, and cultural legacies of the Great Migration


“With considerable depth and detail, this highly readable history of the six million African Americans who left the South for the cities of the North during the 20th century will hook readers with its gripping narrative. … A must for students’ research and classroom discussion, this entry in the Defining Moments series would also be an excellent personal-reading recommendation for both teens and adults.”

—Booklist, Mar ’12, Starred Review; Top 10 Black History Books for Youth, 2013

“The author’s engaging, simple style, combined with a visually enticing layout, will appeal to young readers, or to older readers who want a quick review. … Harris’s book is recommended for public, school, and academic libraries.”

—American Reference Books Annual, 2012

“Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates, high school students, and general readers.”

—Choice, June ’12

“An excellent choice for public and school libraries.”

—School Library Journal, June ’12