The Great Migration: Journey to the North

by Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist

The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North between 1915... read more

The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North between 1915 and 1930 is the subject of moving poems that chronicle different dimensions of the journey. In “The News,” southern Blacks hear about the possibilities for a better life up north. “Goodbyes” features the voices of various individuals bidding farewell to people, places, and attitudes in the South. (“…Goodbye, / work all day for almost no pay, / enemy cotton fields, trying / to break my back, my spirit”) “The Trip” chronicles the journey by train to northern cities. “Question” asks and then answers if a good life awaits at the end of the journey. “Up North” documents the arrival: “... the people keep coming, / keep coming, keep on coming, / filling up the cities with / their hopes and their courage. / And their dreams.” Author Eloise Greenfield provides an opening commentary explaining the Great Migration, and her closing poem, “My Family,” touches on her own family’s move from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., when she was four months old. The poems are weighted with the emotions associated with goodbyes and new beginnings: sadness, relief, trepidation, and hope. Jan Spivey Gilchrist’s collage artwork blends paintings, news clippings, and photographs in images full of tenderness for her subjects and the gravity and hope that the journey embodies. (Ages 9–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2012

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