Stories from the First Great Migration to Philadelphia


Between 1910 and 1930, the African American population of Philadelphia skyrocketed, starting at around 85,000 and entering the Great Depression with nearly 220,000. These statistics suggest the staggering effect on the city, but the stories of the individuals—those who left lives behind in the South and ventured north in search of opportunity and equality, pushed out by the increasingly hostile environment of Jim Crow racism—reveal the true impact of this Great Migration north.

Captured in oral history interviews conducted in the 1980s with aging Philadelphians who experienced the Great Migration firsthand, these stories tell of both individual lives and collective experiences adapting to a new home in this northern city far from the southern enclaves in which many migrants grew up. Meet the narrators, hear their stories, and join us in exploring the common themes uniting those who remember this journey north.

The Goin' North team recieved the 2015 Oral History Project in a Non-Print Format Award from the Oral History Association, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference's C. Herbert Finch Award.