Jim Crow and the Great Migration

by Jonathan Holloway

In September 1895, Booker T. Washington, the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, stepped to the podium at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition and implored white employers to “cast down your bucket where you are” and hire African Americans who had proven their loyalty even throughout the South’s darkest hours. In return, Washington declared, southerners would be able to enjoy the fruits of a docile work force that would not agitate for full civil rights. Instead, blacks would be “In all things that are purely social . . . as separate as the fingers.”

Washington called for an accommodation to southern practices of racial segregation in the hope that blacks would be allowed a measure of economic freedom and then, eventually, social and political equality. For other prominent blacks, like W. E. B. Du Bois who had just received his PhD from Harvard, this was an unacceptable strategy since the only way they felt that blacks would be able to improve their social standing would be to assimilate and demand full citizenship rights immediately.More »

Featured Primary Sources

Detail from a "Birth of a Nation" poster, ca. 1940

Birth of a Nation, 1915

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Giles B. Jackson, ca. 1910 (Virginia Historical Society)

Disfranchisement of African American voters in Virginia, 1901

Creator: Giles Jackson Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Students and teachers at the Calhoun School in Alabama (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

Frederick Douglass on Jim Crow, 1887

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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