Black Families Making a Sweeping Move From the Oppressive South

Mothers Day  Weekend Special at ETA . . . Theatre Special Sale Friday and Saturday only . . .Mothers’ Day is sold out

By Kai EL’ Zabar 

Migration tells a powerful story of love and self determination

             Migration tells a powerful story of love and self-determination

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Great Migration, an historical exodus of Blacks from the extreme racist South to the North.  It is especially significant to Chicago and Bronzeville where Blacks initially settled once they began to thrive and became known as the Black Metropolis.  Of course there was Harlem, Detroit and others.  

There’s so much wealth of history behind  the Great Migration itself. The stories are  about the people, who they were, where they came from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, West Virgina; their hopes, dreams and vision of their future and finally what drove them as individuals and what they found here.

Rober Sengstacke Abbott was a man like them who had migrated to the North from St. Simons Island, Georgia to seek opportunity.  He attended Kent College of law in Chicago so naturally As a lawyer he sought  employment at  local (white) law firms but was rejected based on his race . So with a winning spirit he chose not to quit but rather to utilize another skill he had acquire while  at Tuskegee. Equipped with printing skills and the encouragement of his step father  had once told him that a newspaper was not only a respectable business but significant in the advancement of The Race. So with $25  Abbott founded  The Chicago Defender newspaper, which grew to have the highest circulation of any Black-owned newspaper in the country. 

Abbott wrote scathing articles encouraging Blacks to leave the Jim Crow South. The Defender told stories of earlier migrants to the North, giving hope to disenfranchised and oppressed people in the South of other ways to live. Abbott, through his writings in the Chicago Defender, expressed those stories and encouraged people to leave the South for the North. He even set a date of May 15, 1917, for what he called ‘The Great Northern Drive’ to occur.  In his weekly, he showed pictures of Chicago and had numerous classifieds for housing. In addition, Abbott wrote about how awful a place the South was to live in comparison to the idealistic North. Abbott’s words described the North as a place of prosperity and justice. This persuasive writing, “thereby made this journal probably the greatest stimulus that the migration had.”

The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million African-Americans out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West that occurred between 1916 and 1970.

The play Migration by Michael Bradford is a perfect outing for families to share in a taste of culture and history while being entertained.

A World Premiere of Slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow bedrock the largest migration of African Americans from the south. From 1910-1930 Chicago tenements swelled as men and women heeded the call of Robert Abbott, publisher of the Chicago Defender, to come to the land of “milk and honey.” Jazz musician Noble Johnson and aspiring writer Lillian Stride marry, head north to begin a strivers life and bear witness to the opportunities and disappointments born of this new freedom. The push and shove of city living, airless apartments, hot pavements, and ‘mindful’ segregation shape a new experience southern Blacks find vaguely reminisce of the south.

July 1919 a Black boy accidentally swims into the white area of 29th Street beach; whites stone him and he drowns. A riot erupts on the streets of Chicago with tragic ramifications for Noble and Lillian. Through an intricate layering of music, dialogue and movement, “MIGRATION” shows the historical journey of the great generation of African Americans.

Migration By Michael Bradford directed by Kemati J. Porter at eta Creative Arts Foundation located at 7558 S South Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60619-2644. Box Office Hours: 10 am – 6 pm Monday–Friday. Call for more information (773) 752-3955 or Email: info@etacreativearts.org

Special reduced ticket price of $20 for Friday and Saturday Mother’s Day weekend  only because Sunday, Mother’s Day May 8 is sold out. Kemati Porter, Executive Director said, ” So many people called for Mother’s Day reservations that we sold-out but for those who still want to treat their Mother’s, Friday and Saturday are available at the special ticket rate of $20.” Call Now.

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