African American Migration
By James Wolfinger
People of African descent have migrated to Philadelphia since the seventeenth century. First arriving in bondage, either directly from Africa or by way of the Caribbean, they soon developed a small but robust community that grew throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although African Americans faced employment discrimination, disfranchisement, and periodic race riots in the 1800s, the community attracted tens of thousands of people during World War I’s Great Migration. Drawn by the promise of jobs during the two world wars, Philadelphia’s African Americans created one of the largest black communities in the urban North in the twentieth century. Deindustrialization and suburbanization from the post-World War II period to the early 2000s contributed to rising rates of poverty, racial tensions, and disinvestment in black neighborhoods, but the black community continued to attract new migrants.