What Was the Biggest Internal Migration in American History?

The biggest internal migration in American history was the Great Migration, which occurred between 1916 and 1970. This massive movement of African Americans from the South to the North and West changed the social, cultural, and political landscape of the United States.


The Great Migration was primarily caused by economic factors. African Americans in the South faced limited opportunities for education and employment due to segregation and discrimination. The majority worked as sharecroppers or laborers on farms, earning very little money.

In contrast, industries in Northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York were booming due to World War I. They needed workers to fill jobs in factories and other industries. Because of this demand for labor, African Americans saw an opportunity to improve their economic prospects by moving north.

The Journey

The journey from the South to the North was not easy. Many African Americans had to travel hundreds of miles by train or bus with little money or resources. They also faced discrimination and violence along the way.

Once they arrived in Northern cities, they often encountered obstacles such as overcrowding, poor living conditions, and discrimination in housing and employment. Despite these challenges, many were able to find work and build new lives for themselves.


The Great Migration had a profound impact on American society. It led to significant demographic shifts as millions of African Americans moved from rural areas in the South to urban areas in the North and West.

This migration also contributed to a cultural renaissance known as the Harlem Renaissance in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. African American artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals flourished during this time.

In addition, the Great Migration played a crucial role in shaping political movements such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Many leaders of this movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., were products of the Great Migration.


In conclusion, the Great Migration was the biggest internal migration in American history. It was driven by economic factors and led to significant changes in American society. This movement of millions of African Americans from the South to the North and West contributed to cultural, social, and political changes that continue to shape the country today.