Go to the Digital Library top page!

Social Studies

Click here to go to Great Migration introduction

Lecture Menu > The Great Migration

29. Living in Chicago

[Female voice] Actually why immigrants _______ country. _____________

Oh yeah, in some ways.

[2nd female voice] It also indicates something I think that's interesting that immigration for all groups. And that's why there's a certain kind of intelligence and sensitivity to _______ that is ____ admirable. That is when you enter a new place, there's a local system of politeness and deference in behavior. And one of the things that makes it difficult-the immigrant experience difficult is that you have, to make it very fined tuned. And for African Americans, there was violence and danger attached to not being fine-tuned to what expectations there are of you. But you know, I think that's what makes you know the whole immigrant experience such a complicated thing. It's that the unspoken cultural, structures of social politeness and such upon which so much rests.

Well, Wright talked about that in American Hunger. I forget which words he used; he had very specific words that cautioned about learning the rules of the place. Because one of the differences is that down in the South the rules are less subtle. Whereas here they are much more subtle; they are much, much harder to learn.

The consequences can be just as violent and horrible here as they are there. But because the lines aren't as carefully drawn, they're not drawn, in the law everything is less clear, so it can be much harder.

Langston Hughes, when he came to Chicago, one of the first things he did was make the mistake of crossing the wrong street. Now in the South, because blacks and whites sometimes live near each other, servants live with people who they work for; in the South during this period there's not nearly as much residential segregation as there is here. So in fact, in southern, white neighborhoods they're accustomed to seeing blacks walk around because they're all servants. And even middle-class, lower middle-class, white southerners have black servants. What Hughes did was he crossed Wentworth Avenue and he shouldn't do that; there were no black people that lived there, servants or not, and there was a turf issue, and he crossed Wentworth Avenue in 1918 and he got beat up. So it's always a question of learning the different rules.

[Female voice] __________ also problems, racist _______, because I think that in the South, maybe living near each other but the lines are clearly drawn. This is what you do; this is what I do. This is your sphere; this is my sphere. But here in the North, you have that undercurrent, I would say, I guess it's just subliminal. You don't see this, it doesn't appear to be racist, but yet always-it's always there, it's omnipresent. So if _____ know the rules, you think you know the rules, you're fine but you never know if somewhere along that _____ is going to blow up in your face. So you actually have some sort of fears too, no matter where you go, because the lines aren't so clearly drawn.

Yeah, what you see in the sources here is this very, what I find fascinating sense of the relationship between that fear on the one hand but also the liberation on the other. You also see people saying it's the little things that you don't think of. Being able to try on a hat, in the South, if you're black and you try on a hat in a downtown store, you've bought the hat. That's it, no one else, it's your hat, you pay for it. Whereas here, if you actually, again, if the store didn't want you they would kick you out, but if they didn't kick you out you could then try on a hat.

«previous 29 of 30 next »

Need help searching?
Search help

Search eCUIP:

Examples: or
Contact eCUIP!

Need help?

Return to the eCUIP top page!