Migration from the Rural South 1920–30

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Map Code: Ax01997

World War I increased overseas demand for cotton and tobacco, and caused a temporary boom in the rural South. By 1920, the overseas market collapsed, and many southern farmers lost income. In the 1920s, boll-weevil destroyed up to half the cotton crops, because farmers could not afford pesticides. Agricultural land decreased in value and by 1930 mortgage foreclosures and lack of consumer spending caused banks and businesses to fail. By 1929, thousands had migrated to look for work, with nearly 250,000 leaving South Carolina alone. Here three-quarters of the migrants were black and moved north (where there was no segregation) while the rural whites, many of whom were share-croppers, migrated to southern towns to work in mills and factories. This pattern was mirrored in Virginia and North Carolina. Black southern migrants to New York settled in the Bronx, Brooklyn and north Manhattan (Harlem), where they contributed to the Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of African-American arts.

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