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New Migrants, New Opportunities

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by

Jarod Roll

on 31 March 2016

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Transcript of New Migrants, New Opportunities

New Migrants, New Opportunities

HIS 318
Dr. Roll
Migration to urban areas during World War I created a pressing need for agricultural labor, from California to the South to the rural Midwest

--Immigration Act of 1917, however, stipulated a head tax and literacy requirement that obstructed immigration (by design)
Under pressure from large growers, Department of Labor granted exemptions on a temporary, emergency basis for migrants from Mexico, central and south America

--US Department of Agriculture acted as labor agent connecting growers with migrant workers

--migrants inspected and bathed at the border
Mexicans in the US:
--1910: 225,000
--1920: 650,000
--1930: 1.4 million
Migrants who came did so for jobs, nothing more; provided a vital supply of cheap labor in the 1920s
--AFL pushed for immigration restriction in the 1920s
--backed the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924
--Immigration Act of 1924 (also known as Reed-Johnson) set up strict quotas but did not apply to the western hemisphere
For example: by 1927, 75 percent of the 20,000 workers in the Michigan sugar beet fields had come from Mexico
Migrant networks: American Labor documents 4.15 and 4.16
--outward and return migrations, circuits of migration
--anchored by immigrant communities: language, religion, festivals

By the 1920s, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles home to thriving Mexican communities that provided social, financial, recreational support
Not without tension
--resistance from white AFL members
--others feared Mexicans on cultural and ethnic grounds

Some, however, argued that Mexicans provided a 'near-white' labor force that provided a buffer between the other groups they feared, southern and eastern European immigrants and African Americans
Great Migration after 1915 for African Americans transformed northern industrial cities

After the war, African Americans remained, but in low-paid, low-skilled, menial jobs
Most unions continued to exclude African Americans from membership, some formally but most informally
--others set up race-specific limits on jobs, promotions
Many African American workers responded by working as strikebreakers

Others took advantage when companies preferred to hire them over white workers
--Ford Motor Co. (Detroit)
--Swift Meatpacking (Chicago)
--Pullman Palace Car Company
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
--founded 1925 in Harlem
--A. Philip Randolph
--first African American led union to be chartered by the AFL
--became important source of news for African Americans in the South
By the end of the 1920s, craft unionism, racial and ethnic division, government aid to business, whether industry or agriculture dominated the world of work
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