I had the pleasure of discovering these letters on the jstor site. I'm able to share them with you because they are they are in the public domain and jstor has indicated that they may be used freely and only request an acknowledgement which I included at the bottom of this post.
The historical and educational value of this body of work is immense, not to mention the inspirational. I haven't included every letter here but from this sample you can clearly get a picture of condition of the people at that time. I hope you'll find some use for this information and please share it with others, especially our young folks who aren't familiar with these stories.
SAVANNAH, GA., May 3, 1917.
Dare sier: I understand that you wont some mens and if you
wood sen me transportation for ten mens wood bee turly glad and
please write to me at wonce and lete me hir form you.
LETTERS OF NEGRO MIGRANTS OF 1916-1918
The exodus of the Negroes during the World War, the
most significant event in our recent internal history, may be
profitably studied by reading the letters of the various
migrants. The investigator has been fortunate in finding
letters from Negroes of all conditions in almost all parts of
the South and these letters are based on almost every topic
of concern to humanity. These documents will serve as a
guide in getting at the motive dominant in the minds of these
refugees and at the real situation during the upheaval. As
a whole, these letters throw much light on all phases of
Negro life and, in setting forth the causes of unrest in the
South, portray the character of the whites with whom the
blacks have had to do.
These letters are of further value for information con-
cerning the Negroes in the North. From these reliable
sources the student can learn where the Negroes settled,
what they engaged in, and how they have readjusted them-
selves in a new situation. Here may be seen the effects of
the loss resulting from the absence of immigrants from
Europe, the conflict of the laboring elements, the evidences
of racial troubles and the menace of mob rule.
LETTERS ASKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT
SAVANNAH, GA., Apirl 24, 1917.
Sir: I saw an advertisement in the Chicago Ledger where you
would send tickets to any one desireing to come up there. I am
a married man with a wife only, and I am 38 years of age, and
both of us have so far splendid health, and would like very much
to come out there provided we could get good employment regard-
ing the advertisement.
|Segregated railroad waiting room at the Union Terminal, Jacksonville, Florida, .||Source — Florida State Archives.|
MOBILE, ALA., April 27, 1917.
Sir: Your advertisement appearing in the Chicago Defender
have influenced me to write to you with no delay. For seven
previous years I bore the reputation of a first class laundress in
Selma. I have much experience with all of the machines in this
laundry. This laundry is noted for its skillful work of neatness
and ect. We do sample work for different laundries of neighbor-
ing cities, viz. Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile once or twice
a year. At preseant I do house work but would like to get in touch
with the Chicago . I have an eager desire of a clear in-
formation how to get a good position. I have a written recom-
mendation from the foreman of which I largely depend upon as a
relief. You will do me a noble favor with an answer in the earliest
possible moment with a description all about the work.
PENSACOLA, FLA., April 28, 1917.
Dear Sir: I seen in the Chicago Defender where men was
wanted in small towns near Chicago at fair wages. As i want to
lokate in the north i thought it very nessary to consult you in the
direction of this work. hoping to receive from you full pertikulars
i a wate a reply.
MARCEL, MIss., 10/4/17.
Dear Sir: Although I am a stranger to you but I am a man of
the so called colored race and can give you the very best or refer-
ence as to my character and ability by prominent citizens of my
community by both white and colored people that knows me
although am native of Ohio whiles I am a northern desent were
reared in this state of Mississippi. Now I am a reader of your
paper the Chicago Defender. After reading your writing ever
wek I am compell & persuade to say that I know you are a real
man of my color you have I know heard of the south land & I need
not tell you any thing about it. I am going to ask you a favor
and at the same time beg you for your kind and best advice. I
wants to come to Chicago to live. I am a man of a family wife
and 1 child I can do just any kind of work in the line of common
labor & I have for the present sufficient means to support us till
I can obtain a position. Now should I come to your town, would
you please to assist me in getting a position I am willing to pay
whatever you charge I dont want you to loan me not 1 cent but
help me to find an occupation there in your town now I has a
present position that will keep me employed till the first of Dec.
1917. now please give me your best advice on this subject. I en-
close stamp for reply.
BEAUMONT, TEX., May 14, 1917.
My dear Sir: Please write me particulars concerning emigra-
tion to the north. I am a skilled machinist and longshoreman.
LETTERS ABOUT CLUBS AND GROUPS FOR THE NORTH
MOBILE, AlA., May 11, 1917.
Dear sir and brother: on last Sunday I addressed you a letter
asking you for information and I have received no answer. but
we would like to know could 300 or 500 men and women get em-
ployment? and will the company or thoes that needs help send
them a ticket or a pass and let them pay it back in weekly pay-
ments? We have men and women here in all lines of work we
have organized a association to help them through you.We are anxiously awaiting your reply.
SAUK, GA., May 1, 1917.
Dear Sir: There are about 15 or 20 of us hard working mans
seeking employment an we would be more than glad if you assis
us in finding work i see here in the Chicago Defender laborers
wanted i am a skill labor at most anything except molder but i am
willing to learn the trade we are hard working mans no lofers
neather crap shooters work is what we want and can not get it with-
out you assistant. if you will assis us with transportation please
rite and let us no what way to came to you these white folks here
having meeting trying to stop us from going off to seek work an
noing they haven got work nor wagers for us here.
We have had jobs but loose it and have not the money to get
away if you except my letter please give us some assistant to leave
because is send you a letter Monday but i see afterward that it was
send rong so i send you this one. have you got employment up
there for female if so let us no please if you send me a speciel please
dont put 15 or 20 men and i will under stand if you say 15 or 20
mans they will put me in jail. please answer just as soon can as i
want to get away as soon as i can there nothing here to do. some
industrious female want employment answer at once please.
JACKSON, Miss., May the first, 1917.
sir: I was looking over the Chicago Defender and seen ad for
labers both woman an men it is a great lots of us woud come at once
if we was only abel but we is not abel to come but if you will send
me a pas for 25 women and men I will send them north at once men
DE RIDDER, LA., April 29, 1917.
Dear Sir: there is lots of us southern mens wants transportation
and we want to leave ratway as soon as you let us here from you
some of us is married mens who need work we would like to bring
our wife with us there is 20 head of good mens want transporta-
tion and if you need us let us no by return mail we all are redy
only wants .here from you there may be more all of our peoples
wont to leave here and I want you to send as much as 20 tickets
any way I will get you up plenty hands to do most any kind of
work all you have to do is to send for them. looking to here fromyou. This is among us collerd.
LETTERS ABOUT LABOR AGENTS
MOBILE, ALA., 4-26-17.
Dear Sir Bro.: I take great pane in droping you a few lines
hopeing that this will find you enjoying the best of health as it
leave me at this time present. Dear sir I seen in the Defender
where you was helping us a long in securing a posission as brick-
mason plaster cementers stone mason. I am writing to you for ad-
vice about comeing north. I am a brickmason an I can do cement
work an stone work. I written to a firm in Birmingham an they
sent me a blank stateing $2.00 would get me a ticket an pay 10 per
ct of my salary for the lst month and $24.92c would be paid after I
reach Detorit and went to work where they sent me to work. I
had to stay there until I pay them the sum of $24.92c so I want to
leave Mobile for there. if there nothing there for me to make a
support for my self and family. My wife is seamstress. We want
to get away the 15 or 20 of May so please give this matter your
earnest consideration an let me hear from you by return mail as my
bro. in law want to get away to. He is a carpenter by trade. so
please help us as we are in need of your help as we wanted to go to
Detroit but if you says no we go where ever you sends us until we
can get to Detroit. We expect to do whatever you says. There is
nothing here for the colored man but a hard time wich these south-
ern crackers gives us. We has not had any work to do in 4 wks.
and every thing is high to the colored man so please let me hear
from you by return mail. Please do this for your brother.
SHREVEPORT, LA., May 22, 1917.
Dear Sir: I want to get some infirmation about getting out up
there I did learn that they had a man here agent for to send people
up there I have never seen him yet and I want you to tell me how
to get up there. they are passing people out up there that are
unable to come I would like to hear from you at once from your
NEW ORLEANs, LA., April 22, 1917.
Dear sir: with the greatest of pleasure for me to address you a
few lines, concerning of labor as I was reading and advertisement
of yours in the Chicago Defender stateing that those who wish to
locate in smaller towns with fairly good wages and to bring their
children up with the best of education will kindly get in touch with
you. However if you are in a business of that kind it just fitted me.
While I am a man with a very large family most all are boys and it
is my desires to get in touch with some good firms to works. Kind
sir if you are in that kind of position please let me hear from you
at once I've get no confidence in some of these so called agents. Ill
be to glad to hear from you at once.
MOBILE, ATA., 12-4-16.
Dear Sir: While reading Sunday's Defender I read where you
was coming south looking for labor I see you want intelligent in-
dustrious men to work in factories so I thought I would write and
get a little information about it. there are a lot of idle men here
that are very anxious to come north. every day they are fooled
about go and see the man. pleanty of men have quit thier jobs
with the expectation of going but when they go the man that is to
take them cant be found. last week there was a preacher giving
lecturers on going. took up collection and when the men got to the
depot he could not be found, so if you will allow me the privaledge
I can get you as many men as you need that are hard working
honest men that will be glad to come. I will send you these names
and address if you will send for them to come. there is not work
here every thing is so high what little money you make we have toeat it up. so if what I say to you is agreeable please answer.
LETTERS ABOUT THE GREAT NORTHERN DRIVE OF 1917
PENSACOLA, FLA., 4-21-17.
Sir: You will please give us the names of firms where we can
secure employment. Also please explain the Great Northern
Drive for May 15th. We will come by the thousands. Some of
us like farm work. The colored people will leave if you will assist
MOBiLE, AIA., April 25, 1917.
Sir: I was reading in theat paper about the Colored race and
while reading it I seen in it where cars would be here for the 15
of May which is one month from to day. Will you be so kind as
to let me know where they are coming to and I will be glad to
know because I am a poor woman and have a husband and five
children living and three dead one single and two twin girls six
months old today and my husband can hardly make bread for them
in Mobile. This is my native home but it is not fit to live in just
as the Chicaao Defender say it says the truth and my husband only
get $1.50 a day and pays $7.50 a month for house rent and can
hardly feed me and his self and children. I am the mother of 8
children 25 years old and I want to get out of this dog hold be-
cause I dont know what I am raising them up for iin this place and
I want to get to Chicago where I know they will be raised and my
husband crazy to get there because he know he can get more to
raise his children and will you please let me know where the cars is
going to stop to so that he can come where he can take care of me
and my children. He get there a while and then he can send for
me. I heard they wasnt coming here so I sent to find out and he
can go and meet them at the place they are going and go from
there to Chicago. No more at present. hoping to hear from you
soon from your needed and worried friend.
MONTGOMERY, ALA., May 7, 1917.
My dear Sir: I am writing to solicit your aid and advice as to
how I may best obtain employment at my trade in your city. I
shall be coming that way on the 15th of May and I wish to fBid
immediate employment if possible.
I have varied experience as a compositor and printer. Job
composition is my hobby. I have not experience as linotype oper-
ator, but can fill any other place in a printing office. Please com-
municate with me at the above address at once. Thanking you in
advance for any assistance and information in the matter.
ROm:E, GA., May 13, 1917.
Dear Sir: I am writing you in regards to present conditions in
Chicago in getting employment. I am an experienced hotel man-
in all departments, such as bellman, waiter, buss boy, or any other
work pertaining to hotel and would like to know in return could
you furnish me transportation to Chicago as you advertise in the
Chicago Defender. Am good honest and sober worker, can furnish
recermendations if necessary. Have worked at the Palmer House
during year 1911 as bus boy in Cafe. But returned South for
awhile and since the Northern Drive has begun I have decided to
return to Chicago as I am well acquainted with the city. Hope to
hear from you soon on this matter as it is of great importance
NEW ORLEANS, LA., 4-23-17.
Dear Editor: I am a reader of the Defender and I am askeso
much about the great Northern drive on the 15th of May. We
want more understanding about it for there is a great many wants
to get ready for that day & the depot agents never gives us any
satisfaction when we ask for they dont want us to leave here, I
want to ask you to please publish in your next Saturdays paper
just what the fair will be on that day so we all will know & can be
ready. So many women here are wanting to go that day. They
are all working women and we cant get work here so much now,
the white women tell us we just want to make money to go North
and we do so please kindly ans. this in your next paper if you do
I will read it every word in the Defender, had rather read it then
to eat when Saturday comes, it is my hearts delight & hope your
paper will continue on in the south until every one reads it for it is
a God sent blessing to the Race. Will close with best wishes.
LETTERS CONCERNING WHICH SECRECY WAS ENJOINED
MEmpPHIS, TENN., June 1, 1917.
Sir: as I being one of the readers of your great News paper
and if I am not to imposeing I want to ask you this information
as to what steps I should take to secure a good position as a first
class automobeal blacksmith or any kind pretaining to such and to
say that I have been opporating a first class white shop here for
quite a number of years one of the largest in the south and if I
must say the only colored man in the city that does.
now I never knew any other way to find out as I want to leave
the south and I feel very much confidential that you would give
information if in your power. So if you know of such why please
inform me at your leasure time. Any charges why notify me in
return but do not publish.
FULLERTON, LA., May 7, 1917.
Dear sir: This comes to inform you that I would like very much
to come up and locate in your town, but would like to have a little
advise before I leave the sunny south. I am a railroad man by
trade. Of course I am a Colored man but I have been Conductor
for the G. & S. R. Ry. of the past eight years. I have acted as
yard master, and manager of the switch engine and had charge
of the local freight department. Please advise if you think I can
secure a fairly good paying position up there and I am ready to
come up and take hold. I can furnish good reference, and have
my own typewriter and equipment.
I am not particular about working for the rail-road, but I
would like to get something respectable if possible.
I think my reference will satisfy the most interogator. Kindly
advise privately and do not publish.
VICKSBURG, MISS., May 2, 1917.
Sir: I am a reader of the Chicago Defender I am asking you a
little information. So many people are leaving south for north
and it is too big families and we want to come north or middle
west for better wages. We all have trade and if you think we all
can get position just as we get north if not the middle west. Better
please dont publish this is no paper. here is a stamp envelop for
GREENVILLE, Miss., May 12, 1917.
Dear sir: Please inform me as to wether there is imployment
for col. insurance agents by Company as industrial writers sick
and acc. and deth if thair is such co. handling coolored agents in
Chicago or suburban towns, please see suptender as to wether he
could youse a good relible live agent. I am contemplating moving
to Ill. This is confidential.
My experience as ins. agent 15 year industrial and ord. life and
LETTERS EMPHASIZING RACE WELFARE
Dear Sir: Just for a little infermation from you i would like
to know wheather or not i could get in tuch with some good people
to work for with a firm because things is afful hear in the south let
me here from you soon as poseble what ever you do dont publish
my. name in your paper but i think peple as a race oguht to look
out for one another as Christians friends i am a schuffur and i cant
make a living for my family with small pay and the people is
getting so bad with us black peple down south hear. now if you
ever help your race now is the time to help me to get my family
away. food stuf is so high. i will look for answer by return mail.
dont publish my name if your paper but let me hear from you
NEW ORLEANS, LA., May 1, 1917.
Dear sir: i am a reader of the Chicago defender and i seen in the
defender that you are interrested in the well fair of the colored
people those of the classe that is interested in themselves and com-
ing to the north for a better chance so i take pleashure in riting to
you that i may get some under standing about conditions of getting
work as i see that you are in turch with the foundrys warehouses
and the manufacturing concerns that is in need of laborers and i
thought it was best to rite you and get some understanding as it
is 4 of us expecting to leave here in a few days to come north but
we are not coming for pleasure we are looking for wirk and better
treatment and more money and i ask your aid in helping us to
secure a good position of work as we are men of familys and we
canot aford to loaf and i will be very glad to hear from you andan my arival i will call at your place to see you.
COLUMBIA, S. C., May 7, 1917.
Dir sur: i saw in one of our colord papers your ad i now seat
my selft to seak work thru your ade of which i beleve is ernest
devotion to our betterment i am a brick layer and plastrer i rite
to no if i can get or you can get work for me please let me know
HOUSTON, TEx., April 27, 1917.
Dear Sirs: I am a reader of the Chicago Defender and I seen
where you are in need of men and are also in the position for firms
to seek you. I see where you are in the lines of work for thebetterment of the race.
SHERMAN, GA., Nov. 28, 1916.
Dear sir: This letter comes to ask for all infirmations concern-
emplyoment in your conection in the warmest climate. Now I am
in a family of (11) eleven more or less boys and girls (men and
women) mixed sizes who want to go north as soon as arrangements
can be made and employment given places for shelter an so en
(etc) now this are farming people they were raised on the farm
and are good farm hands I of course have some experence and
qualefication as a coman school teacher and hotel waiter and along
few other lines.
I wish you would write me at your first chance and tell me if
you can give us employment at what time and about what wages
will you pay and what kind of arrangement can be made for our
shelter. Tell me when can you best use us now or later.
Will you send us ticke-ts if so on what terms and at what price
what is the cost per head and by what route should we come. We
are Negroes and try to show ourselves worthy of all we may get
from any friendly source we endeavor to be true to all good causes,
if you can we thank you to help up to come north as soon as you
JACKSONVILLE, FLA., 4/29/17.
Dear sir: i was reading the Chicago Defender to day and i findthat you is mutch enterrested in our negro race i have sevrul years
in laundry business as a wash man and stationery boilers fireing at
this time i have charge of wash room. i am a fire man and all so a
laundry wash man too. hopeing that you will do all you can for
me in getting a plase of theas persisons please giv this your at-
tenson estateing salery per week pleas let me heare from you sooni remain yours truly.
PENSACOLA, FLA., May 1, 1917.
dear sirs: I sene in Defender wher more positions open then
men for them I am colord an do woork hard for my living an dont
mind it is not no bad habits I work but dont get but small wedges
I am up bilder of my colord race an love to help one when he
dezirs to better his condishon I want to ast you for a favor of
helping me to get to you an your office to get me a woork to do I
want to learn a trade and I will pay you to look out for me an get
me a job if you kindly will. Please an send me 3 tickets as we
three good woorking mens make the time you can corleck ever
weeak pay for yo at once be cause we meanse buisness now.
Letters of Negro Migrants of 1916-1918Author(s): Emmett J. ScottReviewed work(s):
Source: The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Jul., 1919), pp. 290-340Published by: Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713780