Highlights from the Gates Collection of African American History and Culture
Jim Crow and the Great Migration
In 1868, following ratification of the 14th and 15th amendments, which granted full citizenship to emancipated slaves, African-Americans achieved a number of elected positions in newly established regional governments in the South. However, after the withdrawal of Union troops from the South in 1876, a series of local and state laws, commonly known as Jim Crow laws, legalized segregation and political disenfranchisement for African-Americans. Often this legal oppression was augmented by violence and intimidation from groups opposed to African-American equality.
As a result, beginning in the late nineteenth century, tens of thousands of African-Americans left the South, migrating to urban areas in the North and West in search of greater social freedom and economic opportunity. Arriving migrants frequently encountered segregation in labor, housing, and education, which often intensified in response to their arrival. In response to this discrimination, African-Americans established a multitude of organizations to provide services to their own communities. These organizations went on to play a crucial role in the struggle for freedom, advancement, and equality.