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A History of African American Heritage in Chicago The massive exodus to the north began in 1915 a population of people weary of pervasive hostility and constraint in their former lives fleeing a social system comprised of miserable oppression and repeated violence The primary cities for resettlement became New York and Chicago metropolises humming with the vigor of big-city life and the excitement of a new beginning When the Chicago Commission asked African American migrants in interviews on Race Relations in 1922 why they came to Chicago responses were similar Im looking for better wages I wanted to get away from the South and to earn more money I wanted to better my living conditions One man when asked what his first impression of Chicago was responded When I got here and got on the street cars and saw colored people sitting by white people all over the car I just held my breath for I thought that any minute they would start something then I saw nobody noticed it and I just thought this was a real place for colored people And life was good if not ideal it was better than the disparaging environment of their prior residence in the South This migration coincided with the War Job opportunities sprang up everywhere as demand increased for more goods and services and suddenly in 1920 the Negro population of Chicago had soared from 44103 in 1915 to 109594 The Illinois Central Railroad brought hundreds on free transportation on the premise that they would employ their company The Negro employment rate skyrocketed the most popular jobs lying within the iron foundries food products manufacturing the tanneries and the mail order industry The majority of blacks coming from the south settled in a limited area known as the South Side Named the black belt of the city it was the most concentrated area of the African American population of the time The difficulty of
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