Skip to main content

African-American Documentary Films on DVD in the Leavey Library: Great Migration

Great Migration

Bloody Island
"In the early part of the century, thousands of African Americans migrated from the rural South in search of a better life in the northern industrial cities. This black migration was an important event in U.S. history. It fueled the factories of the North, but hurt an already weakened southern economy. In East St. Louis, Ill., trouble was brewing as black workers were being hired to replace striking white workers. It all came to a head on the night of July 1, 1917."

Goin' to Chicago
"[The film] chronicles the great migration of African Americans from the rural South to the cities in the North and West during and after World War II...[and] recounts the development of segregated urban northern neighborhoods through the personal stories of Chicagoans born in the Mississippi Delta. They share their bitter recollections of sharecropping, and their adventure north on Highway 61 to Chicago in search of well-paying factory jobs. On Chicago's South Side they built a thriving city-within-a-city. But just as the American Dream was coming into reach, the steel mills and stockyards closed, leaving the new migrants in public housing projects and inner-city despair." -- Container

The Great Flood
"The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in American history. In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its earthen embankments in 145 places and inundated 27,000 square miles. Part of its legacy was the forced exodus of displaced sharecroppers, who left plantation life and migrated to Northern cities, adapting to an industrial society with its own set of challenges. Musically, the Great Migration fueled the evolution of acoustic blues to electric blues bands that thrived in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Chicago becoming the wellspring for R&B and rock as well as developing jazz styles. The Great Flood is a collaboration between filmmaker and multimedia artist Bill Morrison and guitarist and composer Bill Frisell inspired by the 1927 catastrophe."

Up from the Bottoms:The Search for the American Dream
"African-American residents of Muskegon, Michigan tell stories of migrating from the old South to the prosperous North during the war years and beyond. Includes commentary by civil rights activist Dick Gregory and Black Americana scholar Dr. Ben Wilson."