Hope: Black Migration Story


World War I cut the stream of Europeans coming to Northern factories, and employers turned to Southern Blacks to keep the factories running, often being met with local opposition. Between 1916 and 1970, over six million Black Americans escaped Southern poverty, racial segregation, and bodily harm to seek safety, economic security, and better opportunities in the North. Isabel Wilkerson explains, “The Great Migration has more in common with vast movements of refugees from famine, war, and genocide where oppressed people go great distances, . . . or as far as it takes to reach safety” [1].

Census records show that between the 1920 and 1950, 687 people of color lived in DeKalb County, a significant majority being Black. The townships with the largest Black populations were Sycamore, Shabbona and Squaw Grove (located in the Hinckley area).

Shabbona Grove School, 1921. Courtesy of Shabbona-Lee-Rollo Historical Society.

Featured image: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8c02701/?co=fsa

[1] Wilkerson, Isabel. Warmth of Other Suns. New York, Vintage, 2010, pg. 179.

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