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Negro Migration during the War
by Emmett J. Scott
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Probably the most striking change was the unusual increase in wages. The wages for common labor in Thomasville, Georgia, increased almost certainly 100 per cent. In Valdosta there was a general increase in the town and county of about 50 per cent, in Brunswick and Savannah the same condition obtained. The common laborer who had formerly received 80 cents a day earned thereafter $1.50 to $1.75. Farm hands working for from $10 to $15 per month were advanced to $20 or $35 per month. Brick masons who had received 50 cents per hour thereafter earned 62-1/2 cents and 70 cents per hour. In Savannah common laborers paid as high as $2 per day were advanced to $3. At the sugar refinery the rates were for women, 15 to 22 cents per hour, men, 22 to 30 cents per hour. In the more skilled lines of work, the wages were for carpenters, $4 to $6 per day, painters, $2.50 to $4 per day, and bricklayers $4 to $5 per day.

The increase in the Birmingham district may be studied as a type of the changes effected in the industrial centers of the South, as Birmingham is a great coal mining center and, with the exception of Pittsburgh, is the greatest iron ore district in the United States. On November 6, 1917, the average daily wage earnings of forty-five men was $5.49. On November 10, 1917, the average for seventy-five men was $5.30. One man was earning $10 a day, two $9 to $10 a day, five $8 to $9, six $7 to $8, ten $6 to $7, fourteen $5 to $6, thirty-two $4 to $5, nine $3 to $4, and six under $3. In the other coal and iron ore sections the earnings had been similarly increased.[96]

In Mississippi, largely a farming section, wages did not increase to the extent that they did in Alabama, but some increase was necessary to induce the negroes to remain on the plantations and towns to keep the industries going. In Greenville wages increased at first about ten per cent but this did not suffice to stop the migration, for, because of the scarcity of labor, factories and stores had to employ white porters, druggists had to deliver their own packages and firms had to resort to employing negro women. On the farms much of the crop was lost on account of the scarcity of labor. In Greenwood wages of common laborers increased from $1 and $1.25 to $1.75 per day. Clarksdale was also compelled to offer laborers more remuneration. Vicksburg found it necessary to increase the wages of negroes from $1.25 to $2 per day. There were laborers on steamboats who received $75 to $100 per month.

At Leland 500 to 1,000 men received $1.75 per day. The oil mills of Indianola raised the wages of the negroes from $1.50 to $2 per day. At Laurel the average daily wage was raised from $1.35 to $1.65, the maximum wage being $2. Wages increased at Meridian from 90 cents and $1.25 to $1.50 and $1.75 per day. The wholesale houses increased the compensation of their employes from $10 to $12 per week. From $1.10 in Hattiesburg the daily wage was raised to $1.75 and $2 per day. Wages in Jackson increased from $1 and $1.25 to $1.35 and $1.50 per day. In Natchez there was an increase of 25 per cent. On the whole, throughout the State there was an increase of from 10 to 30 per cent and in some instances of as much as 100 per cent.[97]

Throughout the South there was not only a change in policy as to the method of stopping the migration of the blacks to the North, but a change in the economic policy of the South. Southern business men and planters soon found out that it was impossible to treat the negro as a serf and began to deal with him as an actual employe entitled to his share of the returns from his labor. It was evident that it would be very much better to have the negroes as coworkers in a common cause than to have them abandon their occupations in the South, leaving their employers no opportunity to secure to themselves adequate income to keep them above want.

A more difficult change of attitude was that of the labor unions. They had for years been antagonistic to the negroes and had begun to drive them from many of the higher pursuits of labor which they had even from the days of slavery monopolized. The skilled negro laborer has gradually seen his chances grow less and less as the labor organizations have invaded the South. In the end, however, the trade unions have been compelled to yield, although complete economic freedom of the negro in the South is still a matter of prospect.

There was, too, a decided change in the attitude of the whole race toward the blacks. The white people could be more easily reached, and very soon there was brought about a better understanding between the races. Cities gave attention to the improvement of the sanitary condition of the negro sections, which had so long been neglected; negroes were invited to take part in the clean-up week; the Women's Health League called special meetings of colored women, conferred with them and urged them to organize community clubs. Committees of leading negroes dared to take up with their employers the questions of better accommodations and better treatment of negro labor. Members of these committees went before chambers of commerce to set forth their claims. Others dared boldly to explain to them that the negroes were leaving the South because they had not been given the treatment which should be accorded men.

Instead of expressing their indignation at such efforts on the part of the negroes, the whites listened to them attentively. Accordingly, joint meetings of the whites and blacks were held to hear frank statements of the case from speakers of both races. One of the most interesting of these meetings was the one held in Birmingham, Alabama. The negroes addressing the audience frankly declared that it was impossible to bring back from the North the migrants who were making good there, but that the immediate problem requiring solution was how to hold in the South those who had not gone. These negroes made it clear that it was impossible for negro leaders through the pulpit and press to check the movement, but that only through a change in the attitude of the whites to the blacks could the latter be made to feel that the Southland is safe for them.

Here we see the coming to pass of a thing long desired by those interested in the welfare of the South and long rejected by those who have always prized the peculiar interest of one race more highly than the welfare of all. White men, for the first time, were talking on the streets with negroes just as white men talk with each other. The merchants gave their negro patrons more attention and consideration. A prominent white man said, "I have never seen such changes as have come about within the last four months. I know of white men and negroes who have not dared to speak to one another on the streets to converse freely." The suspension of harsh treatment was so marked in some places that few negroes neglected to mention it. In Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi, the police were instructed to curtail their practices of beating negroes. Several court cases in which negroes were involved terminated favorably for them. There followed directly after the exodus an attempt at more even handed justice, or at least some conciliatory measures were adopted. The authorities at Laurel, Mississippi, were cautioned to treat negroes better, so as to prevent their leaving. There is cited the case of a negro arrested on an ambiguous charge. He was assigned to the county chain gang and put to work on the roads. At this time the treatment in the courts was being urged by negroes as a reason for leaving. This negro's case was discussed. He was sent back from the county roads alone for a shovel. He did not return; and his return was not expected.[98]

Conferences of negroes and whites in Mississippi emphasized the necessity of cooperation between the races for their common good. The whites said, to quote a negro laborer, "We must just get together." A negro said: "The dominant race is just a bit less dominant at present." "We are getting more consideration and appreciation," said another. From another quarter came the remark that "instead of the old proverbial accusation—shiftless and unreliable—negro labor is being heralded as 'the only dependable labor extant, etc.'"[99] A general review of the results made it clear that there was a disposition on the part of the white population to give some measure of those benefits, the denial of which was alleged as the cause of the exodus. For those who remained conditions were much more tolerable, although there appeared to persist a feeling of apprehension that these concessions would be retracted as soon as normal times returned. Some were of the opinion that the exodus was of more assistance to those negroes who stayed behind than to those who went away.

As a matter of fact, the white people in the South began to direct attention to serious work of reconstruction to make that section inviting to the negro. Bolivar county, Mississippi, as a direct result of the recommendation of the labor committee, made an appropriation of $25,000 toward an agricultural high school, the first of its kind in the State. The school boards of Coahoma and Adams counties have appointed Jeanes Foundation Supervisors and, in Coahoma county, promised a farm demonstration agent. They also made repairs on the school buildings in towns, and prominent whites have expressed a willingness to duplicate every dollar negroes raise for rural school improvements. A large planter in the Big Creek neighborhood has raised, together with his tenants, $1,000 for schools and the superintendent of schools has gone over the county urging planters to give land for negro schools. Two other large planters, whose tenants number into the hundreds, have made repairs on the schoolhouses on their plantations. The Mississippi Council of Defense passed a resolution calling upon the State to put a farm demonstrator and home economics agent to work in rural communities to make living conditions better in the effort to induce the people to stay.

This upheaval in the South, according to an investigator, will be helpful to all.

The decrease in the black population in those communities where the negroes outnumber the whites will remove the fear of negro domination. Many of the expensive precautions which the southern people have taken to keep the negroes down, much of the terrorism incited to restrain the blacks from self-assertion will no longer be considered necessary; for, having the excess in numbers on their side, the whites will finally rest assured that the negroes may be encouraged without any apprehension that they may develop enough power to subjugate or embarrass their former masters.

The negroes, too, are very much in demand in the South and the intelligent whites will gladly give them larger opportunities to attach them to that section, knowing that the blacks, once conscious of their power to move freely throughout the country wherever they may improve their condition, will never endure hardships like those formerly inflicted upon the race. The South is already learning that the negro is the most desirable labor for that section, that the persecution of negroes not only drives them out but makes the employment of labor such a problem that the South will not be an attractive section for capital. It will, therefore, be considered the duty of business men to secure protection to the negroes lest their ill treatment force them to migrate to the extent of bringing about a stagnation of business.

The exodus has driven home the truth that the prosperity of the South is at the mercy of the negro. Dependent on cheap labor, which the bulldozing whites will not readily furnish, the wealthy southerners must finally reach the position of regarding themselves and the negroes as having a community of interests which each must promote. "Nature itself in those States," Douglass said, "came to the rescue of the negro. He had labor, the South wanted it, and must have it or perish. Since he was free he could then give it, or withhold it; use it where he was, or take it elsewhere, as he pleased. His labor made him a slave and his labor could, if he would, make him free, comfortable and independent. It is more to him than either fire, sword, ballot boxes or bayonets. It touches the heart of the South through its pocket." Knowing that the negro has this silent weapon to be used against his employer or the community, the South is already giving the race better educational facilities, better railway accommodations, and will eventually, if the advocacy of certain southern newspapers be heeded, grant them political privileges. Wages in the South, therefore, have risen even in the extreme southwestern States, where there is an opportunity to import Mexican labor. Reduced to this extremity, the southern aristocrats have begun to lose some of their race prejudice, which has not hitherto yielded to reason or philanthropy.

Southern men are telling their neighbors that their section must abandon the policy of treating the negroes as a problem and construct a program for recognition rather than for repression. Meetings are, therefore, being held to find out what the negroes want and what may be done to keep them contented. They are told that the negro must be elevated, not exploited; that to make the South what it must needs be, the cooperation of all is needed to train and equip the men of all races for efficiency. The aim of all then must be to reform or get rid of the unfair proprietors who do not give their tenants a fair division of the returns from their labor. To this end the best whites and blacks are urged to come together to find a working basis for a systematic effort in the interest of all.[100]

Another evidence of the beneficent effects of the decrease in the population in the Black Belt of the South is the interest now almost generally manifested in the improvement of the negro quarters in southern cities. For a number of years science has made an appeal in behalf of the thoroughly clean city, knowing that since the germ does not draw the color line, a city can not be kept clean as long as a substantial portion of its citizens are crowded into one of its oldest and least desirable parts, neglected by the city and avoided by the whites. Doing now what science has hitherto failed to accomplish, this peculiar economic need of the negro in the South has brought about unusual changes in the appearance of southern cities. Darkened portions of urban districts have been lighted; streets in need of improvement have been paved; the water, light and gas systems have been extended to negro quarters and play grounds and parks have been provided for their amusement.

No less important has been the effect of the migration on the southern land tenure and the credit system, the very heart of the trouble in that section. For generations the negroes have borne it grievously that it has been difficult to obtain land for cultivation other than by paying exorbitant rents or giving their landlords an unusually large share of the crops. They have been further handicapped by the necessity of depending on such landlords to supply them with food and clothing at such exorbitant prices that their portion of the return from their labor has been usually exhausted before harvesting the crops. Cheated thus in the making of their contracts and in purchasing necessities, they have been but the prey of sharks and harpies bent upon keeping them in a state scarcely better than that of slavery. Southerners of foresight have, therefore, severely criticized this custom and, in a measure, have contributed to its decline. The press and the pulpit of the South are now urging the planters to abolish this system that the negroes may enjoy the fruits of their own labor. It is largely because of these urgent appeals in behalf of fair play, during the economic upheaval, that this legalized robbery is losing its hold in the South.

Recently welfare work among negroes has become a matter of much concern to the industries of the South in view of the exceptional efforts made along this line in the North. At the very beginning of the migration the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes pointed out that firms wishing to retain negro laborers and to have them become efficient must give special attention to welfare work.[101] A considerable number of firms employing negro laborers in the North have used the services of negro welfare workers. Their duties have been to work with the men, study and interpret their wants and stand as a medium between the employer and his negro workmen. It has, therefore, come to be recognized in certain industrial centers in the South that money expended for this purpose is a good investment. Firms employing negro laborers in any considerable numbers have found out that they must be dealt with on the same general basis as white laborers. Among the industries in the South now looking out for their negro laborers in this respect are the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, the American Cast Iron Pipe Company of Birmingham and the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company.

These efforts take the form which usually characterize the operations of social workers. The laborers are cared for through the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., the National Urban League and social settlement establishments. The attention of the welfare workers is directed to the improvement of living conditions through proper sanitation and medical attention. They are supplied with churches, school buildings and bath houses, enjoy the advantages of community singing, dramatic clubs and public games, and receive instruction in gardening, sewing and cooking. Better educational facilities are generally provided.

On the whole the South will profit by this migration. Such an upheaval was necessary to set up a reaction in the southern mind to enable its leaders of thought to look beyond themselves into the needs of the man far down. There is in progress, therefore, a reshaping of public opinion, in fact a peaceful revolution in a land cursed by slavery and handicapped by aristocracy. The tendency to maltreat the negroes without cause, the custom of arresting them for petty offenses and the institution of lynching have all been somewhat checked by this change in the attitude of the southern white man towards the negro. The check in the movement of the negroes to other parts may to some extent interfere with this development of the new public opinion in the South, but this movement has been so far reaching in its effect as to compel the thinking class of the South to construct and carry out a policy of fair play to provide against that day when that section may find itself again at the mercy of the laboring class of the negroes.

[Footnote 96: Work, Report on the Migration from Alabama.]

[Footnote 97: Johnson, Report on the Migration from Mississippi.]

[Footnote 98: Johnson, Report on the Migration from Mississippi.]

[Footnote 99: Johnson, Report on the Migration from Mississippi.]

[Footnote 100: Woodson, A Century of Negro Migration, pp. 183-186.]

[Footnote 101: At the National Conference, "The Problems of the Employment Manager in Industry" held at Rochester, New York, in May, 1918, considerable time was given to this question. In discussing psychology in the employment of negro workingmen Mr. E.K. Jones, Director of the Urban League, pointed out that negro laborers must be given not only good housing and recreation facilities but also the opportunity for advancement. "Give them," said he, "a chance to become foremen and to engage in all kinds of skill and delicate labor. This will inspire them and place new life in them."]



CHAPTER IX

THE SITUATION IN ST. LOUIS

It will be both interesting and profitable to follow these migrants into their new homes in the North. Among the most interesting of these communities is the black colony in St. Louis. St. Louis is one of the first cities of the border States, a city first in the memory of the unsettled migrant when the North was mentioned. During a long period thousands had gone there, settled down for a while and moved on, largely to Illinois, a sort of promised land. Conservative estimates place the number of negro migrants who have remained there at 10,000. The number of migrants passing through this city, its reception of them, the living conditions provided and the community interest displayed in grappling with the problem are facts extremely necessary to an understanding of the readjustment of the migrants in the North.

The composition of the city's population is significant. It has a large foreign element. Of the foreign population Germans predominate, probably because of the brewery industry of the American white population. The southern whites are of longest residence and dominate the sentiment. The large industrial growth of the town, however, has brought great numbers of northern whites. The result is a sort of mixture of traditions. The apparent results of this mixture may be observed in these inconsistencies; separate schools, but common transportation facilities; separate playgrounds, but common bath houses; separate theaters and restaurants with the color line drawn as strictly as in the South.[102] There has been considerable migration of whites to this city from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

As there are separate schools in St. Louis, the statistics of the St. Louis system may serve as an index to the sources and the increase of the negro population. The school population was known to increase approximately 500 between 1916 and 1917.[103] The school registration shows communities in which have settled numbers of families from the same State and even the same town. For example, in the vicinity of the Dessalines School in the 1700 block on 12th Street, North, Mississippi colonists are in preponderant majority. The towns represented here are located in the northeastern part of that State. In the vicinity of the L'Overture School are distinct colonies from west Tennessee and Alabama. On Lawton Avenue, another popular street, Mississippians also are in majority. What makes migration to St. Louis from these States easy is probably its convenient location and direct railway communication with them. There has been no influx from Texas and Florida.

How St. Louis secured her migrants makes an interesting story. The difficulty of apprehending labor agents can be appreciated when it is recalled that the most zealous efforts of authority in the majority of cases failed to find more than a trace of where they had been operating. It was asserted by many of the migrants to this city, however, that they had been approached at some time by agents. Large industrial plants located in the satellite city of St. Louis sent men to Cairo, a junction point, to meet incoming trains and make offers. There developed a competition for men. They were first induced to accept jobs in smaller towns, but lack of recreational facilities and amusements and the monotony of life attracted them to the bright lights of St. Louis. The large alien population of this city at the beginning of the war made some employers anxious about the safety of their plants. The brick yards had been employing foreigners exclusively. When war began so many left that it was felt that their business was in danger. They advertised for 3,000 negroes, promising them $2.35 per day. The railroad construction companies sent out men to attract negroes to the city. They assert, however, that their agents solicited men only after they had started for the North.[104]

The industries of St. Louis had much to do with the migration. In this city there are more than twenty breweries. None of these employ negroes. St. Louis also has a large shoe industry. In this line no negroes are employed. A short while ago a large steel plant employing foreigners in large numbers had a strike. The strike was settled but the management took precautions against its repetition. For each white person employed a negro was placed on a corresponding job. This parallel extended from unskilled work to the highest skilled pursuits. The assumption was that a strike, should it recur, could not cripple their industry entirely. About 80 per cent of the employes of the brick yards, 50 per cent of the employes of the packing houses, 50 per cent of the employes of the American Car and Foundry Company are negroes. The terra cotta works, electrical plants, united railways and a number of other foundries employ negroes in large numbers.[105]

The range of wages for unskilled work is $2.25 to $3.35 per day, with an average wage of about $2.75. For some skilled work negroes receive from 35 cents to 50 cents an hour. Wages differ even between St. Louis and East St. Louis, because of a difference in the types of industries in the two cities. Domestic service has been literally drained, and wages here have been forced upwards to approximate in some measure the increase in other lines.

The housing facilities for negroes, though not the best, are superior to such accommodations in most southern cities. There are about six communities in which the negroes are in the majority. Houses here are as a rule old, having been occupied by whites before they were turned over to negroes. Before the migration to the city, property owners reported that they could not keep their houses rented half of the year. According to the statements of real estate men, entire blocks stood vacant, and many vacant houses, after windows had been broken and plumbing stolen, were wrecked to avoid paying taxes on them. Up to the period of the riot in East St. Louis, houses were easily available. The only congestion experienced at all followed the overnight increase of 7,000 negroes from East St. Louis, after the riot. Rents then jumped 25 per cent, but normal conditions soon prevailed. Sanitation is poor, but the women coming from the South, in the opinion of a reputable physician of the city, are good housewives. New blacks have been added to all of the negro residential blocks. In the tenement district there have been no changes. The select negro residential section is the abandoned residential district of the whites. Few new houses have been built. An increase of rent from $5 to $10 per month is usually the sequel of the turning over of a house to negroes.

Community interest in the situation was at first dormant but not entirely lacking. The migration was well under way before there was any organization to make an adjustment in this unusual situation. Interested individuals made sporadic efforts to bring pressure to bear here and there, but the situation was not really appreciated until the outbreak in East St. Louis. There is an active branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and just recently there has been established a branch of the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes to deal with the peculiarly local problems.[106]

East St. Louis, another attractive center for the migrants, is unique among northern industrial cities. It is an industrial offshoot of St. Louis, which has outstripped its parent in expansion. Its geographical advantage has made it a formidable rival even with its less developed civic institutions. Perched on the banks of the Mississippi River, with twenty-seven railroads radiating from it, within easy reach of the coal mines, there has been made possible a rapid and uneven growth. It has doubled its population for three successive decades. Revolving around this overgrown center are a number of small towns: Brooklyn, Lovejoy, Belleville, Venice, Granite City and Madison. Its plant owners live in St. Louis and other cities, and consequently have little civic interest in East St. Louis. Land is cheaper, taxes are low. In fact, some of the largest concerns have been accused of evading them entirely. It has been artificially fed and, in process of growth, there have been irregularities in the structure of the community which eventually culminated in the greatest disgrace of the North, the massacre of about one hundred negroes.

Fifty years ago before the river dividing St. Louis from East St. Louis was bridged, men rowed over from St. Louis for their cock fights, dog fights and prize fights. Escaped prisoners found a haven there. The town was called "The Bloody Isle." The older population is made up of whites from West Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia. The men who have risen to political prominence in the city are for the most part saloon keepers. As many as 100 saloons flourished in the town before the riot. The city government has always been bad. The attitude of the citizenry appeared to be that of passive acceptance of conditions which must not be interfered with. As an example of the state of mind, much surprise was manifested when an investigation of the rioting was begun. Criminals have been known to buy immunity. The mayor was assassinated some time ago and little or no effort was made to punish his murderers.

Long before an influx was felt, it had been foreseen and mentioned by several men, most notably, Mr. Charles Nagel, Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Taft. The East St. Louis plants had been going to Ellis Island for laborers. When this supply was checked, steps were taken to secure negroes. Agents were sent to Cairo to get men en route further North. One advertisement which appeared in a Texas paper promised negroes $3.05 a day and houses. It is estimated that as a result of this beckoning the increase in population due to the migration was 5,000. A number of other negro migrants, however, work in East St. Louis and live in St. Louis, Lovejoy and Brooklyn, a negro town. The school registration of the city showed that the largest numbers of these blacks came from Mississippi and West Tennessee. Despite the advertisement for men in Texas newspapers, few came to this city from that State.[107]

The industries requiring the labor of these negroes were numerous. The packing plants of Swift, Armour, Nelson and Morris employ large numbers of negroes. In some of the unskilled departments fifty per cent of the employes are black. The Aluminum Ore Works employs about 600 blacks and 1,000 whites. This is the plant in which occurred the strike which in a measure precipitated the riot. The Missouri Malleable Iron Works makes it a policy to keep three classes of men at work and as nearly equal numerically as possible. The usual division is one-third foreign whites, one-third American whites and one-third blacks. The theory is that these three elements will not unite to strike. Negroes are also employed in the glass works, cotton presses and transfer yards. Their wages for unskilled work ranges from $2.75 to $3.75 generally for eight hours a day. Semiskilled work pays from 35 cents to 50 cents an hour.

The housing of the negro migrants was one of the most perplexing problems in East St. Louis. The type of houses available for negroes, before being burned during the riot, were small dilapidated cottages. Congestion, of course, was a problem which accompanied the influx of negroes. The incoming population, consisting largely of lodgers, was a misfit in the small cottages designed for families, and they were generally neglected by the tenant and by the local authorities. The segregated vice district was located in the negro locality. The crowding which followed the influx forced some few negroes into the white localities. Against this invasion there was strong opposition which culminated in trouble.[108]

The roots of the fateful horror that made East St. Louis notorious, however, are to be found largely in a no less notorious civic structure. Politics of a shady nature was the handmaiden of the local administration. The human fabric of the town was made up of sad types of rough, questionable characters, drawn to the town by its industries and the money that flowed from them. There was a large criminal element. These lived in a little corner of the town, where was located also the segregated vice district. Negroes were interested in politics. In fact, they were a considerable factor and succeeded in placing in office several black men of their choice.

Trouble started at the Aluminum Ore Works which employed a large number of whites and blacks. In February of 1917 the men struck while working on government contracts. Immediately, it is claimed, negroes were sought for in other States to take their places. An adjustment was made, but it lasted only a short while. Then followed a second strike at which the employers balked. In this they felt reasonably secure for negroes were then pouring into the city from the South during the spring exodus. There followed numerous evidences of brooding conflict such as insults on the street cars, comments and excitement over the daily arrival of large numbers from the South. On one day three hundred are said to have arrived. Standing on the streets, waiting for cars, lost in wandering about the streets searching for homes, the negroes presented a helpless group. The search for homes carried them into the most undesirable sections. Here the scraggy edges of society met. The traditional attitude of unionists toward negroes began to assert itself. Fear that such large numbers would weaken present and subsequent demands aroused considerable opposition to their presence. Meetings were held, exciting speeches were made and street fights became common. The East St. Louis Journal is said to have printed a series of articles under the caption, "Make East St. Louis a Lily White Town." It was a simple matter of touching off the smoldering tinder. In the riot that followed over a hundred negroes were killed. These, for the most part lived away from the places of the most violent disturbances, and were returning home, unconscious of the fate that awaited them. The riot has recently been subject to a congressional investigation, but few convictions resulted and those whites convicted escaped serious punishment.[109]

[Footnote 102: A segregation law was passed by an overwhelming majority. Negroes secured an injunction and the matter rested there until the United States Supreme Court declared the segregation laws invalid.]

[Footnote 103: St. Louis School Reports, 1916 and 1917.]

[Footnote 104: Johnson, Report on the Migration to St. Louis.]

[Footnote 105: Ibid.]

[Footnote 106: Reports of the National Urban League, 1916, 1917.]

[Footnote 107: Johnson, Report on the Migration to St. Louis.]

[Footnote 108: See Congressional Report on the Massacre of East St. Louis.]

[Footnote 109: See Congressional Report on the Massacre of East St. Louis.]



CHAPTER X

CHICAGO AND ITS ENVIRONS

Chicago, the metropolis of the West, remembered in the South since the World's Fair as a far-away city of hope from which come all great things; unceasingly advertised through its tremendous mail order and clothing houses, schools and industries until it became a synonym for the "North," was the mouth of the stream of negroes from the South. It attracted all types of men, brought them in, encouraged them and cared for them because it needed them. It is estimated that within the period of eighteen months beginning January, 1916, more than fifty thousand negroes entered the city. This estimate was based on averages taken from actual count of daily arrivals.

There were at work in this city a number of agencies which served to stimulate the movement. The stock yards were sorely in need of men. It was reported that they had emissaries in the South. Whether it is true or not, it is a fact that it was most widely advertised throughout the States of Mississippi and Louisiana that employment could easily be secured in the Chicago stock yards district. The report was circulated that fifty thousand men were needed, and the packers were providing houses for migrants and caring for them until they had established themselves. The Illinois Central Railroad brought hundreds on free transportation with the understanding that the men would enter the employ of the company. The radical negro newspapers published here urged negroes to leave the South and promised employment and protection. It is indeed little wonder that Chicago received so great a number.

The most favorable aspect of their condition in their new home is their opportunity to earn money. Coming from the South, where they were accustomed to work for a few cents a day or a few dollars a week, to an industrial center where they can now earn as much in an hour or a day, they have the feeling that this city is really the land overflowing with milk and honey. In the occupations in which they are now employed, many of them are engaged at skilled labor, receiving the same and, in some cases, greater compensation than was paid white men in such positions prior to the outbreak of the war. Talking with a number of them the investigator obtained such information as, that men were working at the Wilson Packing House and receiving $3 a day; at the Marks Manufacturing Company for $3.75; as lumber stackers at $4 a day, at one of the rolling mills for $25 a week, and on the railroads at $125 a month. The large majority of these migrants are engaged in the packing houses of Chicago where they are employed to do all sorts of skilled and unskilled labor with the corresponding compensation.[110]

It was soon discovered that the needs of the migrants could not all be supplied by money. Something had to be done for their social welfare. Various agencies assisted in caring for the needs of the 25,000 or more negro migrants who, it is estimated, have come to Chicago within three years. The Chicago Renting Agents' Association appointed a special committee to study the problems of housing them and to confer with leaders in civic organization and with representative negroes. The Cook County Association considered the question of appointing some one to do Sunday School work exclusively among the newcomers. The Housing Committee of the Chicago Women's Club arranged for an intensive survey of housing conditions. The negroes themselves organized to help the recently arrived members of the race. Negro ministers, lawyers, physicians and social workers cooperated in handling the problem through churches, Sunday Schools and in other ways.[111]

The negroes residing in Chicago, who came from particular States in the South organized clubs to look after the migrants from their own States. The result was that an Alabama Club, a Georgia Club, Mississippi Club, Tennessee Club and so on were formed. Committees from these clubs met the train and helped the newcomers to find homes and work. The chief agency in handling the migrant situation in Chicago was the local branch of the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes. The work which the league did for the migrants as set forth in the report of 1917 was of three kinds: employment, housing and adjustment or assimilation. The policy of the Urban League with regard to employment was to find and, where possible, to open new occupations hitherto denied negroes. The housing problem was urgent. The most that the league was able to do thus far was to find lodging, to assist in finding houses. Lodging accommodations for more than 400 individuals were personally inspected by several women volunteers. It is impossible to do much else short of the construction of apartments for families and for single men.

The league's first efforts to assimilate the new people started with their entrance to the city. To see that they received proper directions upon reaching the railroad station was an important task. It was able to secure the services of a volunteer travelers' aid society. This agent met trains and directed migrants to destinations when they had addresses of relatives and friends. In the absence of such they were sent to proper homes for lodging, and to the league office for employment.

The great majority of negroes in Chicago live in a limited area known as the South Side. State Street is the thoroughfare. It is the black belt of the city. This segregation is aided on one hand by the difficulty of securing houses in other sections of the city, and on the other, by the desire of negroes to live where they have greatest political strength. Previous to the migration, hundreds of houses stood vacant in the sections of the district west of State Street from which they had moved only a few years before, when it was found that better homes were available. The presence of negroes in an exclusively white locality usually brought forth loud protests and frequently ended in the abandonment of the block by whites. The old district lying west of State Street held the worst type of houses. It was also in disrepute because of its proximity to the old segregated vice area. The newcomers, unacquainted with its reputation, found no hesitancy in moving in until better homes could be secured.

Congestion has been a serious problem only during short periods when the influx was greater than the city's immediate capacity for distributing them. During the summer of 1917 this was the situation. A canvass of real estate dealers supplying houses for negroes conducted by the Chicago Urban League revealed the fact that on a single day there were 664 negro applicants for houses, and only 50 supplied, while there were 97 houses advertised for rent. In some instances as many as ten persons were listed for a single house. This condition did not continue long. There were counted thirty-six new localities opening up to negroes within three months. These localities were formerly white.

An accompaniment to this congestion was the increase in rents of from 5 to 30 per cent and sometimes as high as 50 per cent. This was explained by landlords as a return to former standards after the property had depreciated through the coming in of negroes. A more detailed study of living conditions among the migrants in Chicago was made by a student of the School of Civics and Philanthropy. The study included 75 families of less than a year's residence. In the group were 60 married couples, 128 children, eight women and nine married men with families in the South.

How this large group—265 persons—fresh from a region where life is enlivened by a mild climate and ample space was to find living quarters in an overcrowded section of two Chicago blocks was a problem of many aspects. A single furnished room, rented by the week, provided the solution for each of 41 families, while 24 families rented homes by the month, four families occupied two rooms each. In some instances, this meant overcrowding so serious as to threaten morals and health. The Urban League interested corporations and capitalists in the construction of modern apartment houses with small individual apartments. It endeavored also to have the city see the necessity of preventing occupancy of the physically unfit houses. The league conducted a campaign to educate the masses in regard to housing, and payment of exorbitant rents was discouraged. The various city departments were asked to enforce ordinances in negro neighborhoods. In this way the league tried to reduce overcrowding and extortionate rentals.

All of the arrivals here did not stay. They were only temporary guests awaiting the opportunity to proceed further and settle in surrounding cities and towns. This tendency appears to have been to reach those fields offering the highest wages and most permanent prospects. With Chicago as a center there are within a radius of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty miles a number of smaller industrial centers—suburbs of Chicago in which enterprises have sprung up because of the nearness to the unexcelled shipping and other facilities which Chicago furnished. A great many of the migrants who came to Chicago found employment in these satellite places.[112]

One of these towns was Rockford, a city of about 55,000 people before Camp Grant began to add to its population. It is estimated that there were about 1,500 negroes in Rockford, 1,000 of whom came in during 1916 and 1917. The Rockford Malleable Iron Company, which never hired more than five or six negroes until two years ago, has nearly one hundred in its employ. A timekeeper, five inspectors, a machinist, a porter, three foremen and twenty of the molders are negroes. The Free Sewing Machine Company, Emerson and Birmingham, the Trahern Pump Company and the two knitting factories began also to employ negroes. The standard wage prevailed, and, while the unskilled work was largely given to the negroes, there were instances when opportunity was given for them to follow pursuits requiring skill.

Housing showed every evidence of congestion. The city was unprepared for the unprecedented increase in population necessitated by the demands of its factories for men to produce munitions of war. The workingmen, however, were soon better provided for than in some other cities. The Rockford Malleable Iron Company conducted two houses for the accommodation of its employes and rented several smaller ones.[113] This company had recently purchased a large acreage and was considering the advisability of building houses for its employes, including the negro migrants. The Emerson and Birmingham Company and the Sewing Machine Company had similar plans under advisement.

The Rockford Malleable Iron Company was the first to use negroes. In the fall of 1916 the first negro employes were brought in from Canton, Illinois, through a Mr. Robinson then employed by the company as a molder. There were nine molders in the group. At brief intervals Tuskegee sent up four, then five, then eight and then six men, most of whom had had training in machinery and molding. The total number of Tuskegee boys was 32. Robinson also brought men from Metropolis, Illinois, and from Kankakee. He made a trip through Alabama and brought up 15 or 16. Most of these were laborers. Seven laborers came as a result of correspondence with a physician from Des Moines, Iowa. From Christiansburg, Virginia, the only negro blacksmith came. The Urban League also sent up some men from Chicago. The company was so pleased with the men's service that they called upon the Urban League for more men and placed in its hands a fund for their railroad expenses.[114]

Negroes were promoted from time to time and were used in every department of the shop. One of the men was an inspector. Two new machines turning out work faster than any other machine were turned over to the negroes. All of them were given steady work without being forced to lay off, and their wages were increased. Street car companies and officials in Rockford have congratulated the men upon their conduct. Two of the men who came up from the South were purchasing property.

When the increase in negro population became noticeable, a good deal of discrimination appeared in public places. The mayor of the city, therefore, called a conference of the Chamber of Commerce, of representatives from Camp Grant, hotels, skating rinks and other public places and read the civil rights law to them. He gave them to understand that Rockford would not stand for discrimination between races. When some of the conferees thought they would like to have separate tables in the restaurants the mayor opposed them and insisted that there should be no such treatment. One restaurant, which displayed a sign, "We do not cater to colored trade," was given orders by the Chief of Police to take it down in fifteen minutes, when his deputy would arrive with instructions to carry out the law in case the sign was not removed.

Waukegan, a town thirty miles northwest of Chicago, with a total population of about 22,000 has approximately 400 negroes, where two years ago there were about 275. The Wilder Tanning Company and the American Steel and Wire Company employed the largest number of these negroes. These firms worked about 60 and 80 respectively. Smaller numbers were employed by the Gas Company, the Calk Mill, the Cyclone Fence Company, the Northwestern Railroad freight house and a bed spring factory and several were working at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. A few found employment as porters in barber shops and theaters. At the Wilder Tanning Company and the American Steel and Wire Company, opportunity was given negroes to do semiskilled work. The former was working negroes into every branch of its industry. The average daily wage here was about $3.[115]

The secretary of the Chamber of Commerce believed that the influx did not cause anything more than a ripple on the surface. He said: "I cover everything when I say that, no apparent increase in crime; no trouble among themselves; no race friction." Theaters began to discriminate, but soon ceased. The proprietor of the Sheridan Club stated that he took a group of men to one theater which had shown signs of discrimination. Each man was told to purchase his own ticket. The owner observing the scheme admitted them. Very few restaurants refuse to serve negroes. Only one openly segregated them to a particular part of the dining-room. Absolutely no trouble was experienced in the schools. The police commissioner sees that the negroes have the protection of the law.

East Chicago, an industrial center located about twenty-five miles from Chicago with a population now made up in large part of Hungarians, Poles, Italians and negroes, had only one negro family in 1915. During the month of August, 1916, about 150 negroes came and others soon followed. At present there are about 75 families, 35 or 40 children of school age and about 450 men working in the industrial plants. The majority of these newcomers were from the rural districts of Alabama and Georgia, with a few from Mississippi. A large number of negroes, moreover, live in Indiana Harbor and in Chicago and work in East Chicago.[116]

Some of the people went to Indiana Harbor for church services. During the summer of 1917, an attempt was made to organize a church, but it was unsuccessful and almost excited a racial conflict. The negroes from Alabama and Georgia complained about the wickedness of East Chicago, and declared their intentions of going home, "where they can sing without appearing strange, and where they can hear somebody else pray besides themselves." Few racial clashes, however, have followed. A strike which occurred at Gasselli's Chemical Company was at first thought to be a protest of the foreigners against the 80 negroes employed there. Nothing serious developed from it. The only apparent dangers were in thoughtlessness on the part of negroes in their conduct. They were too badly needed in industry to be harshly treated either by the foreigners or their employers.[117]

In Beloit, Wisconsin, as in other cities, it was impossible to find out with any degree of accuracy the approximate number of negroes. Estimates of the number ranged from 700 to 2,000, whereas, before the influx, the black population was as low as 200. The total population of Beloit is about 20,000. There are now two negro churches, a Baptist and an African Methodist Episcopal. The Baptist church was said to be made up entirely of new people. Beloit did not have a negro Baptist preacher until the migration, and had no negro physicians. Prior to the influx there was little discrimination, except in some of the restaurants and occasionally in the theaters. One negro was working at the post office, and another at the railroad station. Aside from these, the negro men were practically all laborers and porters.

As is true in most small cities, one company took the initiative in sending for men from the South. The Fairbanks Morse Company was the pioneer corporation in this respect in Beloit. This company hires at present 200 men. Most of these came from Mississippi. In fact, Albany and Pontotoc, small towns in Mississippi, are said to have dumped their entire population in Beloit. A few from Memphis, Tennessee, were employed there but the company preferred Mississippians, and had agents at work in that State getting men for its plant. It was said to be fair in its treatment of negroes and to pay the standard wages.[118]

Milwaukee was one of the ready recipients of negro migrants from other points in the North. Following the outbreak of the war, the consequent cessation of foreign immigration and the withdrawal of a number of aliens from the labor market to follow their national colors, a large demand for negro labor was for the first time created. Milwaukee apparently could not attract voluntary migration, and the larger plants were forced to import some 1,200 southern negroes to man their industries. In 1910, the city had a negro population of 980. There are now in Milwaukee about 2,700 negroes of whom 1,500 are newcomers, not only from the South, but from the adjacent States of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.[119]

This migration to Milwaukee caused a number of difficulties. The first difficulty to arise was in the relationship of the migrant to the old residents of the city. Like the newly arrived foreigners they lived rather "close lives," had little contact with the people of the community and as a consequence were slow in changing their southern standards. This lack of contact was registered in the slight attendance in the colored churches, which are by far the most common medium of personal contact among negroes. The leading pastors and two others who have made unsuccessful attempts to establish churches complained that the newcomers, although accustomed to going to church in their old homes, "strayed from the fold" in the large city. There was also a certain unmistakable reticence on the part of the newcomers with respect to the negroes of longer residence. The new arrivals were at times suspicious of the motives of the older residents, and resented being advised how to conduct themselves. They were for the most part not in touch with any civic agency. The migrants, therefore, came into contact with the lower element. The recreations and amusements of the newcomers were those which the social outcasts furnished them.[120]

Another anomaly was to be observed in the motives behind the migration. The most recent European immigrants, unfamiliar with the character of the plants, having strong bodies and a disposition to work, are engaged as unskilled laborers. They do not, of course, remain at this level, but are continually pushed forward by later comers. The men who filled these lower positions were not the best type of foreigners. When the war began and this influx from Europe was stopped, it was for these positions that the plants were forced to seek men. Negroes were sought in the South, but, unfortunately, the emphasis was placed on quantity and not quality. Those who were able to move on shortest notice, those with few responsibilities and few interests at home, were snapped up by the labor agents. This blunder has also registered itself in the records of the city and the character of the negro migrants. This was probably due to the fact that little is known of Milwaukee in the South. Unlike Chicago, Detroit, New York and other northern cities, it was not a popular destination for voluntary migration. Agents who scoured the South for men testified that in a large number of cases the first question asked was whether or not Milwaukee was a wet town, for the southern States have prohibited the sale of liquor. While Chicago got advertisement in the South through its great mail order business, most of what was known of Milwaukee related to its breweries.

The negroes here, however, had numerous industrial opportunities. The manner in which the trades suddenly opened up to them made it difficult to ascertain the number of negroes so engaged. An intensive study of a neighborhood showed a much wider variety of skilled negro laborers and brought to light the cases of many not otherwise known. One man in touch with the iron workers of the city ventured the statement that there were perhaps 75 negroes engaged in skilled work in the iron and steel industries of the city. In a large number of other plants one or two negroes had succeeded in finding skilled employment. Firms known to employ negroes in the capacity of skilled workmen are the Plankington Packing Company, Wehr Steel and Machine Shops, the National Malleable Iron Works, A.J. Lindeman-Hoverson Company and the Milwaukee Coke and Gas Company. For the most part skilled negroes are butchers and molders.[121]

In the case of negroes from the South with trades, however, there arose a situation which is seldom fully appreciated. A man in the South may be skilled in such an independent trade as shoemaking, tailoring, carpentry and the like, but in a northern city with its highly specialized industrial processes and divisions of labor, he must learn over again what he thought he had mastered, or abandon his trade entirely and seek employment in unskilled lines. The wages for skilled work were for butchers, 55 to 64 cents an hour; for steel molders, 35 to 47 cents an hour; for firemen, $27 per week; for chauffeurs, $15 to $30 a week; for shoemakers, $20 a week; stationary firemen, $24 a week. The mass of negroes, men and women, gainfully employed in the city was made up of manual laborers. Vacancies for negroes in industry were made at the bottom. The range of occupations in unskilled work, however, was fairly wide. They were packing house employes, muckers, tannery laborers, street construction workers, dock hands and foundry laborers. Their wages were for foundry laborers, 32-1/2 cents to 35 cents an hour; for muckers, $28 a week; for tannery laborers, $24 a week; dock hands, 60 cents an hour; and for packing house laborers, 43 cents an hour (male), and 30-1/2 cents an hour (female). There were also porters in stores and janitors whose weekly wages averaged between $15 and $18 per week.

Several firms made strenuous efforts to induce laborers to come from the South. The Pfister-Vogel Company employed a negro to secure them for this purpose, and made preparation for their lodging and board. This representative stated that he was responsible for the presence of about 300 negroes in the city. Reverend J.S. Woods of the Booker T. Washington social settlement, who was actively engaged in assisting the plants, asserted that he had placed over 400. The Albert Trostel Company paid transportation for nearly 100 men.

The principal industries employing negroes with the number employed were about as follows:[122]

Number Firm Male Female

Plankington Packing Co. 78 10 Albert Trostel Leather Co. 75 30 Faulk's Manufacturing Co. 34 Hoffman Manufacturing Co. 2 Tunnell Construction Co. 10 Milwaukee Coke and Gas Co. 38 Pfister-Vogel Tannery 75 A.J. Lindeman-Hoverson Co. 13 National Malleable Iron Co. 22 Solvay Steel Castings Co. 24 Allis Chalmers 70

On December 1, 1917, the Plankington Packing Company employed 93 men and 27 women. The Pfister-Vogel Company had only 75 men in its employ. This company, however, within 18 months had employed 300 negroes from the South.

Concerning the range of wages for negroes in these lines the data provided by these firms gave some means of information.

Firms Male Female

Plankington Packing Co. 43c to 64c an hour 30-1/2c an hour Faulk's Manufacturing Co. 35c to 47c an hour Hoffman Manufacturing Co. 32-1/2c an hour Tunnell Construction Co. $4 a day Albert Trostel Co. 40c an hour 30c an hour Milwaukee Coke and Gas Co. $3.67 to $4.79 a day A.J. Lindeman-Hoverson Co. $3 to $5 a day National Malleable Iron Co. 35c an hour to $4 a day Pfister-Vogel Tannery $22 to $24 a week

The quality of the workingmen is of interest both to the employers and social workers. To get uniform data employers were asked the principal faults and principal merits of their negro workmen. To the question, "What are the principal faults of your negro workmen?" these answers were given:[123]

None that predominate.

The principal fault of negro workmen is, they are slow and very hard to please.

Not good on rapid moving machinery, have not had mechanical training; slow; not stable.

Inclined to be irregular in attendance to work.

Very unsteady.

Leave in summertime for road work.

To the question, "What are the principal merits of your negro workmen?" these answers were given:

They are superior to foreign labor because they readily understand what you try to tell them.

Loyalty, willingness, cheerfulness.

The skilled men stick and are good workmen.

Generally speaking they are agreeable workmen.

Quicker, huskier, and can stand more heat than other workmen.

The attitude of white and black workmen toward one another in none of the plants visited presented anything like a serious situation. The following are answers to questions relating to this sentiment as returned by the important industries:[124]

No feeling—no complaints—no comments.

White and black get along well. There was a little trouble some time ago between a Jewish foreman and his negro workmen. All the negroes quit. The matter was investigated and the foreman discharged.

Good.

The relations are favorable, although negroes appear a bit clannish.

Good fellowship prevails.

Negroes do not stay long enough to get acquainted.

Good in most cases. Very little opposition. They are working as helpers with whites. Few objections.

As a final effort to get the opinion of employers themselves concerning the best means of improving their labor, a suggestion from them on this matter was solicited. Their views are subjoined:[125]

A rather broad question and one that could only be answered after considerable study. Believe the great trouble with negro labor has been the fact that a poor class of negroes has been employed by many. We have a good lot of workers now.

Some means should be devised to get them away from their general shiftless ways.

Education.

As a negro can be very contented and happy on very little, if their living conditions were improved and the desire created in them to improve their condition, this would be a help towards encouragement in bettering their social condition. In fact, we feel that anything that would help to better the social attention of the negro would make him a better workman.

Better housing and supervision through some responsible organization. Some way to keep sympathetic watch over them.

Without doubt there is an element of truth in each of these comments. It is unquestionably true that a large number of these men register by their actions instability, irregularity and general shiftlessness. Some of these cases are inexcusable, and the only reason for their connection with the industry is the fact that they were brought from the South, where they were voluntarily idle, by agents of employers. The importation merely shifted the scene of their deliberate loafing and spasmodic contact with work.

Employers in all of the plants know that they have had difficulty in holding their negro labor, but do not know why. Most of the men willing to leave the city were unmarried men with few responsibilities. These are the ones who found employment there and, being dissatisfied, quit. The highest negro labor turnover was in the leather factories. But for this there was a reason. The only employment permitted negroes there was wet and very disagreeable beam work, and at wages not in excess of those paid by neighboring plants with a different grade of work. Inquiries among laboring men reveal reasons plausible indeed to the laborers themselves, which in many cases would have been found reasonable also by the employers.

It is generally known that all classes of labor of all nationalities are in an unsettled state. Shifting to the higher paid industries is common. In consequence the disagreeable and poorly paid ones have suffered. The instability of negroes, especially in those industries that have been so hard pressed as to find it necessary to go South for men, is not so much a group characteristic as an expression of present tendencies in labor generally.

Reasons of a more intimate nature advanced by the men for changing jobs are numerous. Among these are dissatisfaction with the treatment of petty white bosses, the necessity for ready money for the care of their families, the distance of the plants from the district in which the negro workmen live[126] and the unpleasant indoor work in certain factories.

The social condition of negroes in Milwaukee is not alarming. There are indicated, however, unmistakable maladjustments which require immediate attention. But even these will not become alarming, if checked now, when preventive measures can be made practicable, attractive and easy.

The neighborhoods in which negroes live have long showed evidence of physical and moral deterioration. The addition of 1,400 negroes from the South, over 70 per cent of whom were brought to the city by companies seeking labor, hastened the deterioration and gave rise to problems where only tendencies existed before. Neighborhood life is conspicuously lax and the spirit of the community quite naturally comports with the looseness and immorality of the district. Though such conditions are plainly evident, no organized influence has been projected to correct them. As with the neighborhood, so with housing, crime, delinquency, education, recreation, industry, and the like, the conditions which retard developmental habits must have constant vigilance and treatment.

[Footnote 110: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 111: Ibid.]

[Footnote 112: The Detroit branch of the Urban League reported, for example, that a great percentage of its applicants for work were from Chicago.]

[Footnote 113: The two large houses accommodated fifty to sixty men. One of these was known as the Tuskegee Club House and housed only men from Tuskegee Institute.]

[Footnote 114: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 115: In May, 1917, the Sherman House on Genesee Street in the heart of the city became a negro hotel. It has 19 bedrooms and accommodates 35 men. It was poorly managed and dirty. A barber shop, pool room and dining room were run in connection with it and were also poorly managed. The manager of the hotel is one of the newcomers. A rooming house and dance hall for negroes is operated in another section of the city. The Wilder Tanning Company was building a hotel for 50 single men and individual houses of five, six, seven and eight rooms for families. Houses for white workmen were to be built by the company after these were completed. Lawrence Wilder, president of the company, stated that the building of these houses was no "experiment." "They are being put up to stay." Hot and cold water, hot air, heat, electric lights, and shower baths will be in the hotel. Single rooms will rent for $1.25, double rooms $2.50 per week. No women will be permitted to live in the hotel. A social room will be within easy access of all occupants. No meals will be served at the hotel, but will be served at the plant. The houses will be one and two stories and can be purchased on a monthly basis. A street car line will connect the plant and the subdivision.

Before the influx the Cyclone Fence Company and the Calk Mill Company were said to have sworn never to employ negro labor. The Wilder Tanning Company and the American Steel and Wire Company have standing invitations for negro men with references.—Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 116: They were employed by the Gasselli Chemical Company, Goldsmiths Detinning Company, the International Lead Refining Company, the United States Reduction Company, the United States Refining Company, Hobson and Walker's Brick Yard, the Inland Steel Foundry, Interstate Mill, the Cudahy Soap Factory and the Republic Rolling Mill. The Hobson and Walker's Brick Yard employed 200 and provided houses within the yards for the families of the workmen. The International Lead Refining Company provided lodging for its men in remodeled box cars. Wages for ordinary labor ranged from $2.50 to $4.50 per day. This did not include the amount that might be made by overtime work. The brick yard employed negroes for unskilled work at 35 cents an hour. A few skilled negroes employed were receiving from $4.75 to $7 a day.

Negroes are fairly well scattered throughout the foreign residential section. A small area known as "Oklahoma" or "Calumet" had perhaps the largest number. The houses were overcrowded, dark, insanitary, without privacy and generally unattractive. All of the rooms were sleeping rooms, usually with two beds in a room accommodating six men. Rent was high, and ranged from $15 to $25 a month for four and five room flats in very unattractive buildings. Single lodgers paid from $1.50 to $1.75 a week. Restaurant rates were exorbitant and food was so high that many of the families bought their provisions in Chicago.

There were no churches or in fact any wholesome social institutions in town. There were many flourishing saloons. There was one colored pool room, and one colored restaurant. On occasions, a hall belonging to the whites was used for dances and socials.—Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 117: Following each pay day from twenty to thirty negroes left for their homes in the South. Some returned when their funds were about exhausted and worked five or six months more. Others remained at home for the winter. "It was expected that the brick yard would lose a very large number on the 8th of November. On the 15th of December another large contingent leaves for the South."—Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 118: There was great congestion in housing, as the negroes were restricted to certain sections with homes usually kept in insanitary condition. A very large housing plan of the company met with objection on the part of the white citizens who sent in a petition to the City Council against building houses for negroes. The City Council said they wanted the housing property for park purposes. The matter was taken to court. The Council condemned the property but failed to sustain the belief that it was needed for a park. Through various methods of red tape and legal procedure the matter was delayed. The company then built houses on a smaller scale. The plans included two apartment houses that would accommodate six families each. There were also in the course of erection houses for men with families to take the place of some improvised huts which the company had found necessary to use to facilitate the work of the men.—Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 119: Before 1910, 114 persons had arrived; between 1911 and 1915, 72; during 1916, 74; during 1917, 102; and during 1918, 40 persons had arrived.]

[Footnote 120: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 121: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 122: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 123: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 124: Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]

[Footnote 125: Ibid.]

[Footnote 126: A simple situation of this nature registers itself without explanation against the character of negroes in the records of the firms. The Pfister-Vogel Company had a house on Clinton Street in which lived twenty or more negroes. This location is eight or ten miles away from the community in which negroes live. There are no amusements for these young men around Clinton Street. The cars stop running at a comparatively early hour. If they go to the city they must either come back in a taxicab or spend the evening away from home. It is less expensive to spend the evening away. As a result they are late for work and may not report. If they report, they are tired and unfit for work. If they do not they are put down as irregular and unsteady.—Johnson, Report on the Migration to Chicago.]



CHAPTER XI

THE SITUATION AT POINTS IN THE MIDDLE WEST

The most important city in this section to be affected by the migration was Pittsburgh, the gateway to the West. The Pittsburgh district is the center of the steel industry. For this reason, the war caused the demand for labor to be extremely heavy there. Pittsburgh was one of the centers to which the greatest number of negroes went. Before the migration, a considerable number of negroes were employed there. In 1900, the negro population of Allegheny county, in which Pittsburgh is situated, was 27,753. In 1910 it was 34,217. When the migration began, the county had about 38,000 negroes. Investigations and estimates indicate that, at the end of 1917, the negro population of the county had increased to almost 66,000. Epstein in his survey of The Negro Migrant in Pittsburgh said:[127]

From a canvass of twenty typical industries in the Pittsburgh district, it was found that there were 2,550 negroes employed in 1915, and 8,325 in 1917, an increase of 5,775 or 227 per cent. It was impossible to obtain labor data from more than approximately sixty per cent of the negro employing concerns, but it is fair to assume that the same ratio of increase holds true of the remaining forty per cent. On this basis the number of negroes now employed in the district may be placed at 14,000. This means that there are about 9,750 more negroes working in the district today than there were in 1915, an addition due to the migration from the South.

According to Epstein, the migration had been going on for little longer than one year. Ninety-three per cent of those who gave the time of residence in Pittsburgh had been there less than one year. More than eighty per cent of the single men interviewed had been there less than six months. In the number who had been there for the longest period, married men predominated, showing the tendency of this class to become permanent residents. This fact becoming evident, some industrial concerns bringing men from the South, having learned from bitter experience that the mere delivery of negroes from a southern city did not guarantee a sufficient supply of labor, made an effort to secure married men only, and even to investigate them prior to their coming. Differences in recruiting methods may also explain why some employers and labor agents hold a very optimistic view of the negro as a worker, while others despair of him. The reason why Pittsburgh has been unable to secure a stable labor force is doubtless realized by the local manufacturers. Married negroes come to the North to stay. They desire to have their families with them, and if they are not accompanied North by their wives and children they plan to have them follow at the earliest possible date.

It would appear that the stability of the labor supply depended to a very large extent upon the housing conditions. It was found that in many instances men who had families went to other cities where they hoped to find better accommodations. The Pittsburgh manufacturer will never keep an efficient labor supply of negroes until he learns to compete with the employers of other cities in a housing program as well as in wages. The negro migration in Pittsburgh, however, did not cause a displacement of white laborers. Every man was needed, as there were more jobs than men to fill them. Pittsburgh's industrial life was for a time dependent upon the negro labor supply, and the city has not received a sufficient supply of negroes, and certainly not so many as smaller industrial towns, although the railroads and a few of the industrial concerns of the locality have had labor agents in the South. Yet, in spite of the difficulties because of the obstructive tactics adopted in certain southern communities to prevent the negro exodus, they have nevertheless succeeded in bringing several thousand negroes into this district. "One company, for instance," says Epstein, "which imported about a thousand men within the past year, had only about three hundred of these working at the time of the investigator's visit in July, 1917. One railroad, which is said to have brought about fourteen thousand people to the North within the last twelve months, has been able to keep an average of only eighteen hundred at work." These companies, however, have failed to hold the newcomers.

The problems created by this sudden increase of Pittsburgh's population were very grave. In the early part of 1917, plans were formulated to make a social survey of the migrants in Pittsburgh. Cooperating in this survey were the University of Pittsburgh, the Associated Charities, the Social Service Commission of the Churches of Christ and the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes. In March, 1917, the director of the Department of Public Health, instructed the sanitary inspectors to pay special attention to all premises occupied by the "newcomers." Another step in this direction was the establishment in that city of a branch of the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes.

A survey made in 1917 showed that the housing situation was the most serious aspect of the migrants' social problems, and that in order to have improvements in other lines housing conditions must be made better. Because of the high cost of materials and labor incident to the war, because the taxation system still does not encourage improvements and because of investment attractions other than in realty, few houses had been built and practically no improvements had been made. This was most strikingly apparent in the poorer sections of the city. In the negro sections, for instance, there had been almost no houses added and few vacated by whites within the previous two years. The addition, therefore, of thousands of negroes just arrived from southern States meant not only the creation of new negro quarters and the dispersion of negroes throughout the city, but also the utmost utilization of every place in the negro sections capable of being transformed into habitations. Attics and cellars, storerooms and basements, churches, sheds and warehouses had to be employed for the accommodation of these newcomers. Whenever a negro had space which he could possibly spare, it was converted into a sleeping place; as many beds as possible were crowded into it, and the maximum number of men per bed were lodged. Either because their own rents were high or because they were unable to withstand the temptation of the sudden, and, for all they knew, temporary harvest, or perhaps because of the altruistic desire to assist their race fellows, a majority of the negroes in Pittsburgh converted their homes into lodging houses.

Because rooms were hard to come by the lodgers were not disposed to complain about the living conditions or the prices charged. They were only too glad to secure a place where they could share a half or at least a part of an unclaimed bed. It was no easy task to find room for a family, as most boarding houses would accept only single men, and refused to admit women and children. Many a man, who with his family occupied only one or two rooms, made place for a friend or former townsman and his family. In many instances this was done from unselfish motives and in a humane spirit.[128]

How the negroes are employed will throw more light on their situation. The Epstein investigation showed that

Ninety-five per cent of the migrants who stated their occupations were doing unskilled labor, in the steel mills, the building trades, on the railroads, or acting as servants, porters, janitors, cooks and cleaners. Only twenty, or four per cent out of 493 migrants whose occupations were ascertained, were doing what may be called semiskilled or skilled work, as puddlers, mold-setters, painters and carpenters. On the other hand, in the South 59 out of 529 claimed to have been engaged in skilled labor, while a large number were rural workers.

The following table shows the occupations of migrants in Pittsburgh as compared with statements of occupations in the South:

Occupations In Pittsburgh % In South %

Common laborer 468 95 286 54 Skilled or semiskilled 20 4 59 11 Farmer — — 81 15 Miner — — 36 7 Sawmill workers — — 9 2 Ran own farm or father's farm — — 22 5 Ran farm on crop sharing basis — — 33 6 Other occupations 5 1 0 0

It seems clear that most of the migrants were engaged in unskilled labor. The reason given by the manufacturers in accounting for this disparity were that the migrants are inefficient and unstable, and that the opposition to them on the part of the white labor prohibits their use on skilled jobs.[1] Ninety-five per cent of the negro workers in the steel mills were unskilled laborers. "In the bigger plants," says the investigator, "where many hundreds of negroes are employed, almost one hundred per cent are doing common labor, while in the smaller plants, a few might be found doing labor which required some skill." Epstein believes that this idea is often due to the prejudice of the heads of departments and other labor employers. A sympathetic superintendent of one of the large steel plants said that in many instances it was the superintendents and managers themselves who are not alive to their own advantage, and so oppose the negroes in doing the better classes of work. The same superintendent said that he had employed negroes for many years; that a number of them had been connected with his company for several years; that they are just as efficient as the white people. More than half of the twenty-five negroes in his plant were doing semiskilled and even skilled work. He had one or two negro foremen over negro gangs, and cited an instance of a black man drawing $114 in his last two weeks' pay. This claim was supported by a very intelligent negro who was stopped a few blocks away from the plant and questioned as to the conditions there. While admitting everything that the superintendent said, and stating that there is now absolute free opportunity for negroes in that plant, the man asserted that these conditions have obtained within the last year.[129]

It was found that in the Pittsburgh district the great mass of workers get higher wages than in the places from which they come. Fifty-six per cent received less than $2 a day in the South, while only five per cent received such wages in Pittsburgh. However, the number of those who said they received high wages in the South is greater than the number of those receiving them there. Fifteen per cent said they received more than $3.60 a day at home, while only five per cent said they received more than that rate for twelve hours' work there. Sixty-seven per cent of the 453 persons stating their earnings here, earn less than $3 a day. Twenty-eight per cent earn from $3 to $3.60 a day, while only five per cent earn more than $3.60 a day. The average working day for both Pittsburgh and the South is ten and four-tenths hours. The average wage is $2.85 here; in the South it amounted to $2.15. It may be interesting to point out that the number of married men who work longer hours and receive more money is proportionately greater than that of the single men, who have not "given hostage to fortune."

Judging from what has been said about the habits of living among the negro migrants in Pittsburgh, they are of the best class of their race. Chief among those to be mentioned is their tendency to abstain from the use of intoxicants although it has often been said that the cause of the migration from the South was due to the desire of negroes in prohibition States to go where they may make free use of whisky. In this city it was observed that out of 470 persons who answered questions with reference to whether or not they imbibed only 210 of them said that they drank, while 267 made no use of intoxicants at all. It was also observed that among those who have families, the percentage of those addicted to drink is much smaller than that of others who are single or left their families in the South. This, no doubt, accounts for the orderly conduct of these negroes who, according to statistics, have not experienced a wave of crime. The records of the courts show numerous small offenses charged to the account of negroes, but these usually result from temptations and snares set by institutions of vice which are winked at by the community.

These negroes, on the whole, are thrifty and will eventually attach themselves permanently to the community through the acquisition of desirable property and elevation to positions of trust in the industries where they are employed. Evidences of the lazy and shiftless and the immoral are not frequent, because of a sort of spirit of thrift pervading the whole group. Many of the families have savings accounts in banks, and practically all of the married men separated from their families in the South send a large portion of their earnings from time to time. Money order receipts and stubs of checks examined show that these remittances to distant families range from between $5 to $10 a week. Others have seen fit to divert their income to objects more enterprising. They are educating their children, purchasing homes and establishing businesses to minister to the needs of their own peculiar group.

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