By River, By Rail: History of the Black Migration

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By River, By Rail: History of the Black Migration (22:00)
Item# 7895

In the early 20th century, blacks moved north in hope of a better life with little more than a prayer and the shirts on their backs. In this program, poet Maya Angelou, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, and a host of other African-Americans recount the story of the migration, of separated families, and of the hardships, prejudice, and struggle for acceptance in the North that resulted in disillusionment. Black luminaries include James Cameron, author of A Time of Terror; Jacob Lawrence, artist and creator of The Black Migration series; and Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Back to Africa movement of the 1920s. (22 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (9)

1. The Great Migration (02:29)
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The Great Migration was the largest mass migration of people in American history. In the early part of the 20th century hundreds of thousands of African-Americans left their homes in the South with dreams of finding freedom, justice, and respect in the North.

2. Stories from the Great Migration (02:27)

Authors James Cameron and Lucille Clifton share personal stories from the Great Migration. Artist Jacob Lawrence's "The Great Migration Series" illustrates the mass migration of African-Americans to the North in a series of paintings.

3. A Lynching in the North (01:32)

Author James Cameron recalls the time he was nearly lynched along with two friends who were hanged by an angry mob. The incident shattered Cameron's hopes that the Great Migration would enable black Americans to escape racism and violence.

4. Standing Up to Racism (01:10)

Author Lucille Clifton remembers hearing horror stories from her parents about injustices suffered by Southern blacks. She shares a story about the day her father stood up to a bartender's racism.

5. Black Athletes (02:16)

Black athletes became heroes on the field but were victims of Jim Crow laws everywhere else. Sports writer Sam Lacy recalls stories about racial discrimination directed at baseball legends Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie McCovey.

6. Cab Calloway's Band (02:24)

Jazz great Doc Cheatham looks back on his days on the road with Cab Calloway's band. Cheatham recalls laughing about acts of racial prejudice and discrimination the band experienced as they traveled from show to show.

7. The Harlem Renaissance (01:26)

A cultural revolution developed in Harlem where thousands of African-Americans made their homes during the Great Migration. Harlem's vibrant community was a source of pride but some sensed it as a place in which the black Americans were contained.

8. Marcus Garvey (02:08)

Escalating racial tensions in the North caused by the Great Migration prompted Marcus Garvey to found the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Back to Africa Movement. Garvey's son Julius reflects on his father's legacy.

9. History and Family Pride (04:12)

Maya Angelou asserts the importance of understanding one's personal and family history. Many black families hold large annual reunions to maintain a sense of family history and pride that might otherwise have been lost when families separated during the Great Migration.

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