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Black Southerners Seek Advice from a Northern Newspaper

Between 1916 and 1930, over a million African Americans living in the South migrated to cities in the North and West in what has become known as the "Great Migration." Many who were considering whether or not to leave the South sought information and assistance from the Chicago Defender, a black newspaper that vigorously advocated migration. In 1919, southern subscribers accounted for three-fourths of the Defender's circulation, despite the refusal of white news distributors in the South to circulate it. Letters to the Defender from southern readers gave voice to the hopes, fears, and motivations of migrants and would-be migrants to the North.

LUTCHER, LA., May 13, 1917 

Dear Sir: I have been reading the Chicago defender and seeing so many advertisements about the work in the north I thought to write you concerning my condition. I am working hard in the south and can hardly earn a living. I have a wife and one child and can hardly feed them. I thought to write and ask you for some information concerning how to get a pass for myself and family. I dont want to leave my family behind as I cant hardly make a living for them right here with them and I know they would fare hard if I would leave them. If there are any agents in the south there havent been any of them to Lutcher if they would come here they would get at least fifty men. Please sir let me hear from you as quick as possible. Now this is all. Please dont publish my letter, I was out in town today talking to some of the men and they say if they could get passes that 30 or 40 of them would come. But they havent got the money and they dont know how to come. But they are good strong and able working men. If you will instruct me I will instruct the other men how to come as they all want to work. Please dont publish this because we have to whisper this around among our selves because the white folks are angry now because the negroes are going north. 


BESSEMER, ALA., 5/14/17

Sirs: Noticing and ad in Chicago Defender of your assitance to those desiring employment there I thought I mayhaps you could help me secure work in your Windy City. I'm a married man have one child. I have common school education, this is my hand write. I am presently employed as a miner has been for 14 years but would like a Change. I'm apt to learn would like to get where I could go on up and support myself and family. You know more about it than I but in your opinion could I make anything as pullman porter being [inexperienced]? I'd be so grateful to U. to place me in something I've worked myself too hard for nothing. I'm sober and can adjust my life with any kind and am a quiet christian man.



Gentlemen: I want to get in tuch with you in regard of good location & a job i am for race elevation every way. I want a job in a small town some where in north where I can receive verry good wages and where I can educate my 3 little girls and demand respect of [intelligence]. I prefer a job as cabinet maker or any kind of furniture [manufacturing] if possible. Let me hear from you all at once please. State minimum wages and kind of work.  Yours truly. 


Source | Journal of Negro History, Vol.IV, 1919; from History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web,
Creator | Chicago Defender
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Chicago Defender, “Black Southerners Seek Advice from a Northern Newspaper,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 22, 2021,

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