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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. The wartime demand for labor in the North helped start an enormous internal population movement that became known as the Second Great Migration. The period from roughly 1940 to 1970 saw nearly five million Black Americans move from rural areas in the South to industrial cities in the North.1

Founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, The Chicago Defender became a leading national voice for Black Americans. The newspaper was not only known for its articles on Black life in Chicago, but also for its coverage of racial violence experienced by Black people in the South. With a circulation of over 500,000, it became the largest and most successful Black newspaper in the country.

Claude Albert Barnett, the founder of the Associated Negro Press,2 authored this article, which appeared in The Chicago Defender in 1952. After explaining the population influx in the North with the develpment of new agricultural technology in the South, Barnett abruptly switched topics to address the issue of Displaced Persons (DPs). He claimed that white DPs who had only recently arrived in the US were being hired instead of qualified Black Americans. According to Barnett, DPs were benefiting from American racism and had even begun adopting racist language and attitudes themselves.3 Barnett argued that racist hiring practices led to Black workers becoming "the real DPs—displaced persons in our national economy."

Barnett ended his column with a story of a DP who had supposedly refused to register for the draft. This was likely a way to draw his readers' attention to the important contributions that Black Americans had made to the US war effort—and to contrast them to the recently arrived European DPs. Although Black Americans had served during World War II, US armed forces remained segregated until 1948. During the war, Black Americans launched a Double Victory Campaign ("Victory over fascism abroad, victory over racism at home") to draw attention to the need for equal rights.4

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). 

Although the term "Negro" was frequently used as a respectful term in the 1930s, it is widely considered offensive today. For more on how such terms have changed to adapt to developing standards of respectful speech, see Tom W. Smith, "Changing Racial Labels: From 'Colored' to 'Negro' to 'Black' to 'African American,'" The Public Opinion Quarterly, 56:4 (Winter 1992): 496–514. 

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 Black 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 primary sources on the experiences of Black Americans during World War II, see the related Experiencing History collection, Black 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
Chicago, IL, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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