The Great Migration
Detroit Historical Marker: "Gateway to Freedom," Hart Plaza, Detroit, Michigan, by sculptor Ed Dwight. Depicts slaves looking toward Canada and freedom. Paying 'homage' to the difficult travels many African American slaves made in the 1800s on the Underground Railroad— and people who took great risks helping them to freedom when they made it North to Detroit. The Underground Railroad helped thousands of escaped slaves make their way to free states or Canada.
From string band music in Mississippi to country blues in Memphis to jump blues in Chicago, Joe and Charlie McCoy played important roles in several musical genres. Their careers not only mirrored the "great migration" of African-Americans to the north, but also the development of African-American music from its rural roots to the foundations of rock and roll. After 20+ year careers, they both died in Chicago in 1950 and were buried in unmarked graves.
Writer and poet Richard Wright, 1943. The Great Migration brought various black artists from the South to the North. Wright moved from Mississippi to Chicago and then to New York and Paris. His autobiography, Black Boy, details his experiences of the physical and emotional violence of racism in Mississippi.
On May 5, 1905, Robert Sengstacke Abbott founded the Chicago Defender with an initial investment of 25 cents and a press run of 300 copies. Five years later, the Chicago Defender began to attract a national audience and had a major influence on the Great Migration, culture, and the struggle for civil and human rights.
Otis Spann (March 21,1930 – April 24, 1970) was a blues musician whom many consider to be the leading postwar Chicago blues pianist. Spann began playing piano by age of eight, influenced by his local ivories stalwart, Friday Ford. At the age of 14, he was playing in bands finding more inspiration in the 78s of Big Maceo Merriweather, who took the young pianist under his wing once Spann migrated to Chicago in 1946.
Barkin' Bill Smith (August 18,1928 – April 24, 2000) was a Chicago electric blues singer and songwriter. Smith was raised in Mississippi, but later relocated to East St. Louis, Detroit and finally Chicago. He obtained his stage name from Homesick James in 1958, after the pair had worked together. Smith sang in front of various blues bands around Chicago for many years, having been initially influenced by Joe Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon and Brook Benton.
Photo of children outside of the Chicago Urban League In 1916 a group of community leaders established what would become one of the oldest and largest race relations agencies in the country. The organization was founded to assist African Americans migrating from the South to Chicago during the Great Migration. It helped the new residents with services in housing and employment matters