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Albert Barnett: “Negro Workers Leave the South; Displaced by DPs in the North”

Albert Barnett - Negro Workers Leave the South
The Chicago Defender

The arrival of Displaced Persons (DPs) in the United States after World War II was not the only postwar migration taking place in the US. Racial segregation and a lack of economic opportunity in the South, coupled with the wartime demand for labor in the North helped start an enormous internal population movement that became known as the Second Great Migration. This period from roughly 1940 to 1970 saw nearly five million African Americans move from rural areas in the South to urban centers in the North.1

Founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, The Chicago Defender became a leading national voice for African Americans. The newspaper was known for its coverage not just of African American life in Chicago but of racial violence against African Americans in the South. With a circulation of over 500,000, it became the largest and most successful African American newspaper in the country.

Claude Albert Barnett, the founder of the Associated Negro Press, authored this article, which appeared in The Chicago Defender in 1952. After describing the population influx in the North due to new agricultural technology in the South, Barnett abruptly switched topics to address the issue of displaced persons. He claimed that white DPs who had recently arrived in the US were being hired instead of African American workers. According to Barnett, DPs were benefiting from American racism and had even begun adopting racist language and attitudes themselves.2 Racist hiring practices led to African American workers becoming "the real DPs—displaced persons in our national economy."

Barnett ended his column with a story of a DP who supposedly refused to register for the draft. This was likely a way to draw his readers' attention to the great contributions African American had made to the United States, in contrast with the European displaced persons. Although African Americans fought in great numbers for the United States during World War II, the US Army remained segregated until 1948, and during the war, African Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign ('Victory over fascism abroad, victory over racism at home") to draw attention to the need for equal rights.3

Barnett's article demonstrates that not everyone welcomed DPs to the US. Some DPs faced discrimination, anti-immigrant sentiment, or resentment from American workers who viewed DPs as potential competition on the job market. 

For more on the Second Great Migration, see Lisa Krissof Boehm, Making a Way out of No Way: African American Women and the Second Great Migration (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010); Leah Platt Bouston, Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018); and James N. Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). 

Born in Florida, Barnett eventually made his way to Chicago where he founded the Associated Negro Press in 1919. In this role, Barnett also contributed to The Chicago Defender. For more on African American newspapers during World War II and the Holocaust, see Paul Alkebulan, The African American Press in World War II: Toward Victory at Home and Abroad (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014). 

 

For more on African Americans during World War II, see the Experiencing History collection African Americans and World War II.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The Chicago Defender
Date Created
August 23, 1952
Page(s) 11
Author / Creator
Claude Albert Barnett
Language(s)
English
Location
Chicago, IL, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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