Slought and Scribe Video Center have organized A City Transformed, a pop-up exhibition on display from August 3-10, 2016 that explores the historic tide of African Americans moving North during The Great Migration, and their transformative impact on the culture and industry of Philadelphia. The exhibition, organized in conjunction with the BlackStar Film Festival, features two site-specific installations by artists Mendi + Keith Obadike and Lonnie Graham, and a selection of documentary films from Scribe's "Precious Places Community History Project."
The Great Migration was one of the largest and most rapid mass internal movements in history. The reconstruction era saw a dramatic reversal of advancement through the terror tactics of the the Klu Klux Klan, as well as the development of Jim Crow laws across the south. The North and Midwest became mythologized as places of racial, socio-cultural, and economic opportunity, where one could find better jobs, safety, suffrage, and educational opportunity. The Migration of Black Americans also gained momentum during World War I through the efforts of Northern businessmen seeking to fill the labor shortage. Northern companies offered incentives to Black workers to relocate, including free transportation and low-income housing. Philadelphia, which had the largest free Black population in the United States during the Civil War, became a new magnet for those moving North.
In Philadelphia, Black men found employment in the steel mills and munitions plants in Nicetown, Eddystone, Coatesville, and Carney's Point, New Jersey; they manned the shipyards in Philadelphia, Chester, and Camden; worked on the docks and wharves and in the sugar mills and oil refineries that lined the Delaware River, and did the hard physical labor needed throughout the region. Thousands of southern women found employment cleaning, cooking, and caring for the children of white families, while others worked in the city's factories.
Slought, the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania Website