African American Immigration

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					                                                                       Elizabeth Fitzgerald
                                                                            Article Review
                                                                                  Econ 467

                   When the Tide Turned: Immigration and the Delay
                            Of the Great Black Migration
                                By William J. Collins

       William J. Collins article “When the Tide Turned: Immigration and the Delay of

the Great Black Migration” discusses why the African American population move from

the south to the urban north and the impact of this migration. It also discusses the

variability of employment due to the influx of European Immigrants, and the racial

tensions existing in the United States.

       From 1910 to 1950, 3.5 million African Americans relocated from the south to the

urban north. They choose to reside in big industrial states including: Pennsylvania, New

York, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. The African American migrants favored areas in

which family or friends have already gone. The characteristics of the typical black

migrant consisted of younger mainly between the ages of 15 and 44 and half of which

were women. They were also poorly educated with the majority of their skills residing in

the agricultural industry, although some had experience in southern industries and

approximately 20 percent were illiterate. But they were better educated then the average

African American adult living in the south. Since, the black migrants where better

educated then the bulk of the southern black population, we see a tendency for African

American migrants to pursue nonagricultural vocations, sometimes even before leaving

the south.
       Upon reaching the urban north, African Americans still faced racism in

employment opportunities. Most migrants found themselves employed as unskilled

laborers or servants. Those who managed to obtain an industrial job where generally

stuck on the ground floor of the operation, unable to get promotions. If by chance an

African American got a promotion they faced harassment that usually either caused the

person to be removes or they quit. In some cases, they were disposed of in violent ways

including but not limited to being pushed into machinery. Most industrial jobs where

filled white first then black laborers, no matter how much training they may have

obtained. As a prime example of this behavior, Blacks in Detroit between 1920-1940

could only work for Ford Motor Company, due to their exclusion from other companies

in the area. One of the only ways in which African Americans were able to get industrial

jobs was by becoming strikebreakers. But by performing this role the animosity between

white and black laborers increased. The white laborers perceived blacks as threatening

outsiders. On the positive side it helped the African American to get their foot into the

industrial door and gave the corporations of the north an incentive to learn how to

effectively use black labor. But this also demonstrates that blacks where considered a

reserve from a labor, under valuing the contribution that this labor pool could have

produced with equal opportunities.

       Collins states that there has never been a concrete correlation between the influx

of European Immigrants and the inability of African Americans to relocate and find jobs

in the urban north. But through his research in the immigrant-as-deterrent hypothesis he

tries to shed so light on the issue. He quotes Frederick Douglass’s observation from 1853:

“Every hour sees the black man in the north elbowed out of employment be some newly
arrived immigrant whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to

the place.” Collins trying to evaluate the immigrant-as-deterrent hypothesis, be taken city

and state level data, which included: the rate of black migration, the rate of foreign-born

migration, the average wage of production workers at the beginning of the decade relative

to the comparable wage in the South adjusted for state cost of living differences, the

growth of manufacturing employment for wage earners, and the proportion of the

population working as wage earners in manufacturing. When taking city level estimates

the basic idea is to determine the black or foreign-born population had there been no

migration. He took the estimate at the beginning of each decade and compared in to the

actual population at the end of the decade. One of the problems, Collins states, is that

during one decade half may be marked by the influx of black migrants, while the other

half may be marked by an influx of foreign born immigrants. From his analysis of the

state and level data, he found that on average African Americans moved at times and to

places where foreign-born immigrants were less prevalent.

       Collin also poses the question: How many more blacks would have moved to the

north if immigration laws where passed setting quotas on the number of foreign-born

165,000 immigrates per year? He found that the average foreign-born migration rate to

the north was 81.61 per thousand populations between 1880 and 1920, but the rate was

only 38.64 percent in the 1920’s. Collin also states that if the rate of 81.61 had continued

into the 1920’s then we would have had 260,000 fewer blacks that might have moved

north, which would have reduce the black migration approximately 30 percent.

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