America's Great Migrations
Home | Maps | Black Migration | Southern Diaspora | Dust Bowl Migration | Migration history by state

mapping Great Migrations
Here are more than two dozen interactive maps and charts
Migration is one of the great forces of history. When people move in large numbers they sometimes rearrange not only their own lives but also places they leave and the places they settle. Americans have always been a moving people, coming from other places, moving to new places. Not only has the nation long attracted people from other nations, it also claims high rates of internal migration. This project explores a number of consequential migrations--Great Migrations--that helped reshape culture, politics, or economic structures. It has four units, each with detailed information and interactive maps, charts, and data: (1) the migration of African Americans out of the South 1900-2000; (2) the diaspora of whites from the same region; (3) the Dust Bowl migration to California from Oklahoma and neighboring states in the 1930s. (4) In addition, we provide migration histories for all fifty states. Our charts and maps track the birthplaces of state residents decade by decade from 1850-2010

Most of these materials are from published and unpublished work by James Gregory, Professor of History, University of Washington.

chicago migrantsUpwards of 7 million African Americans left the South during the 20th century, settling mostly in the big cities of the North and West. In doing so they transformed more than their own lives. This Great Migration transformed cities and set the foundations for reconstructions of race, politics, and even the regional balances of the nation. This section includes six interactive maps and charts and several interpretative essays.






More than 20 million whites left the South during the 20th century, vastly outnumbering the 7-8 African Americans who left. They were joined by nearly 1 million Latinos, mostly Tejanos, who moved west to California and north into the Midwest. This section shows migration patterns and explores the impacts of the southern diaspora. This section includes six interactive maps and tables as well interpretative essays.






The relocation to California of close to 400,000 Oklahomans, Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians during the Great Depression was the most publicized mass migration of that decade. Many faced unexpected difficulties, especially those who headed for California's Central Valley. Their plight caught the attention of journalists, photographers, and became the subject of one of the most celebrated American novels of the century, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Here are three interactive maps as well as detailed accounts and primary sources.







Americans have always been a moving people, coming from other places, moving to new places. Not only has the nation long attracted people from other nations, it also claims high rates of internal migration. Here are interactive graphics and maps that allow us to track the changing population decade-by-decade since 1850. Select a state and see where people were born, both other countries and other states. We have more detail about key states, including racial breakdowns, see the separate pages for: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington state.



   California Migration History 1850-2010

California's history is keyed to migration. The most populous state in the union became so because so many people from other states and other lands have moved there. It was not until 2010 that the number of native-born Californians surpassed the number who had migrated from somewhere else. And still today most adults are from another state or another country. [more]

   Florida Migration History 1850-2010

More than any other southern state, Florida has consistantly attracted newcomers. Today only about one third of the population claims a Florida birthplace; two thirds are from somewhere else, many from Cuba and Latin America but really from every state and most nations. Migration to Florida is an old story, In the late 1800s, Florida grew rapidly as whites from neighborhing states moved south looking for land to farm. [more]

   Illinois Migration History State 1880-2010

Illinois, like other midwestern states, experienced rapid population growth through migration in the 19th century and much slower growth since then. Recording a population of 851,000 in 1850, the state doubled its numbers by 1860, doubled again by 1880, and again before 1910. It has taken a century to double the 1910 total. Migration in the 19th century drew heavily on states to the east of Illinois, especially New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. European immigrants from Gemany and Ireland came in huge numbers in the same period. The 1880 census showed that roughly half the population were from out of state with Germany, New York, Ohio, and Ireland the leading contributors. [more]

   New York Migration History 1850-2010

New York has always been the gateway state, the state that absorbs the greatest diversity of newcomers from abroad. In 1850 when for the first time the US census recorded birthplaces, the leading birthplaces for residents not born in New York were in order: Ireland, Germany, England, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and Canada, with a dozen other countries further down the list. [more]

   Texas Migration History 1850-2010

Texas has been a migration magnet throughout its history, which helps explain the record of growth that now makes it the second most populous state following California. Migration, most of it illegal, from Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi fueled the rebellion that wrestled the province from Mexico in 1836. In the decades that followed an enormous number of southerners moved west to expand the cotton belt, many of them enslaved. [more]

   Washington Migration History 1850-2010

Washington remains today a state where most residents came from somewhere else, another state or another country. Occupied by Americans since the 1840s, it's population grew slowly until statehood in 1889, then surged after the discovery of gold in Alaska and the Yukon in 1896. Farming, timber, and fishing attracted newcomers from the upper Midwest and from northern Europe, along with smaller numbers of Chinese and Japanese. [more]



Bibliography of Great Migrations

This is a database of more than 700 books and articles, the most complete bibliography of each of the great migrations.





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