Lorain’s International Legacy

African American Origin

As early as 1866, the first African American settlers came to the area. Demographics of African Americans in Lorain typically follow the trends of the Second Great Migration movement, effectively raising the nonwhite proportion in 1940 at less than 2% to very near 5% by the 1950 census. The 2010 census shows Lorain at 17.6% for persons who identify as Black or African American alone, and 5.4% that identify as two or more races.

The Great Migration

Between the years of 1916 to 1970, more than six million African Americans relocated from the rural South to cities in the North, Midwest, and West. This has come to be known as the Great Migration.

As immigration laws became stricter in the 20th century and World War I began, there was a shortage of workers in industrial jobs in the North, Midwest, and Western urban areas. Northern recruiters and black newspapers encouraged African Americans to leave their lives of the Post-Reconstruction era South that was plagued by little economic opportunity and harsh Jim Crow laws. They soon found factory jobs that would make them three times more than a sharecropper in these new cities.

However, their new urban lives did not come without its difficulties. Men’s jobs were usually in dangerous and strenuous working conditions, while women had trouble finding work. There was large competition for housing, along with racism and prejudices; rents surged as cities became increasingly crowded.

The Great Migration changed the economies, politics, and culture of cities all across America. It also had an immense impact on the political, cultural, and social lives of African Americans. The Harlem Renaissance is an effect of the Great Migration that led to the 1920s period of black artistic expression. Political activism also greatly increased as a result of the Great Migration.

The Great Migration is normally broken up into two migrations: The First Great Migration which occurred from 1910 to 1940, and The Second Great Migration, from 1940 to 1970. Lorain and Cleveland both saw large increases in their African American population during the latter. The two are separated by the low levels of migration during The Great Depression.