“But it is a Fine Place to Make Money”: Migration and African-American Families in Cleveland, 1915-1929

The new studies on “African American migration” between 1915 and 1930 to northern cities like Cleveland, Ohio, have shown how family and household reformation in the North and the continued links with family and households in the South provided critical economic resources as migrants moved out of the South. Few of these studies have explored how migration and settlement might have altered family and friend relationships and patterns of obligations. While migrants pursued a variety of economic calculations to meet their needs, other goals, such as the care of children, the use of boarding to fill social and emotional needs, the desire to be near kin and friends from the south, and the need to continue cultural patterns of visiting, also significantly influenced black household formation. In addition to traditional historical documents, this article explores first-person accounts by migrants to Cleveland who demonstrate how family needs and the process of migration shaped each other. For many, moving North challenged many of their assumptions about and patterns of kinship, household, and friend obligation. In addition, this study suggests how the sometimes long process of reassembling family and friend networks in the city frequently altered gender and generational relations in families.

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