Immigrants are the people that make up the United States, but they are also the people who make up Lorain. Lorain, Ohio, dubbed the “International City,” currently has residents representing over 55 different nationalities.
This led the city to create the International Festival, with its First Festival held in 1967. This festival was created to combine all the different, ethnic festivals that Lorain previously had and create one, unified event. Lorain has kept this tradition alive and celebrated their 50th International Festival in June, 2016.
Though Lorain’s International legacy is very unique, it does follow trends that many other parts of the United States experienced as well. There are three major waves of immigration in the United States’ history: the colonial era, the early 19th century, and the 1880s-1920s. Most came find a better economic opportunity, and others came to find political and religious freedom.
We hope this information gives you insight into Lorain’s demographic origin as well as your personal origin as well. Unfortunately, we do not have information about all 55 different nationalities, but we would love to one day! If your heritage is not listed in the text, and you have information you would like to share with the Lorain Historical Society, please contact us!
The International City is rich in history and strong in tradition, consisting of many ethnic groups that came to Lorain to find work and to make a better life for their families. We have collected some of the research and have made it available for a wider audience here on our website. We welcome any additional information on this topic, or personal stories that you would be willing to share.
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.