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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > African Americans 1880-1920
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

African Americans 1880-1920

1880-1920African Americans

The turn of the twentieth century brought profound changes to millions of Americans, and African Americans were no exception. Crop failures, economic hardships, and the failures of Reconstruction stimulated a Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities at the end of the nineteenth century. They arrived in cities already teeming with millions of European immigrants. Within a single generation, these once agrarian people developed a distinctly urban lifestyle and culture. Racism and a glutted labor market prevented many African Americans from attaining the better life they sought. Despite these setbacks, they established new cultural institutions and modified older ones to meet the needs of urban life. Discussions within African American communities in this period revolved around achieving political, economic and social equality.

Explore these subthemes to better understand African Americans at this time.

Struggle for Freedom

Struggle for Freedom : Churches and Community

Hundreds of thousands of southern blacks migrated to northern cities at the end of the nineteenth century in search of employment and a better life.


Working : Finding a Place

Southern blacks migrating to northern cities were not able to enjoy the same social and economic mobility experienced by millions of European immigrants arriving in the same period.

African Americans

African Americans : After Reconstruction

W.E.B. DuBois was a major voice in debates at the turn of the century over how African Americans could best secure political, economic and social equality.


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