Back to Inquiry Set

The Great Blues Migration

Map tracking the routes of the Great Migration overlain with origins and routes of the blues

Siegel, Michael
2005
Map

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "The Great Blues Migration" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed December 19, 2020. 

This map is titled “The Great Blues Migration.” It illustrates two important and related movements. First, it illustrates how many African Americans left the rural South beginning in the early twentieth century and traces key places that they moved to. Two catalysts of this migration were World War I and World War II, and the willingness of employers during these national emergencies to hire African American laborers. Second, the map documents how when African American migrants moved north, they took culture and some family members with them. People who participated in the Great Migration were actively resisting Jim Crow segregation and racial violence. In The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, historian Isabel Wilkerson calls the Great Migration “the first mass act of independence by a people who were in bondage in this country for far much longer than they have been free.” Based on this map, what is the connection between the movement of people and music, especially blues? How do you think the movement of people and the spread of music connects to the “extremes” of the 1920s?

This map documents the Great Blues Migration. It illustrates two important and related movements. First, it illustrates how African Americans left the rural South beginning in the early twentieth century and traces key places that they moved to. Two catalysts of this migration were World War I and World War II, and the willingness of employers during these national emergencies to hire African American laborers. Second, the map documents how when African American migrants moved north, they took culture and some family members with them. People who participated in the Great Migration were actively resisting Jim Crow segregation and racial violence. In The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, historian Isabel Wilkerson calls the Great Migration “the first mass act of independence by a people who were in bondage in this country for far much longer than they have been free.” These questions can help guide your students’ exploration of the map and connect it to the significance of the set: Based on this map, what is the connection between the movement of people and music, especially blues? How do you think the movement of people and the spread of music connects to the “extremes” of the 1920s?