Tag Archives: Great Migration

Detroit Grew Despite Meeting Man’s Hierarchical Needs

detroit highway
Like any living being, cities have a hierarchy of needs that range from a base of survival needs to those that raise a city to meet man’s higher needs of fulfillment. At the base level, a community can survive but it’s citizens will drift to other population centers where higher hierarchy needs are met.

As a city evolves to meet higher hierarchical needs of its citizens, it will begin to attract immigrants and in migrants from other populations. In the case of Detroit, as the city introduced industry, jobs that paid more than wages from other parts of America or Europe enticed immigrants and Southern blacks, for jobs met base needs that were not satisfied elsewhere.

After Ford offered $5 a day, migration accelerated. Blacks, Poles and others flooded into Detroit’s slums to meet their needs of a new life. The city certainly had the base requirements met. Detroit was flush with water on a major waterway for transportation. Michigan had plenty of natural resources or could trade for them along the Great Lakes. And jobs were plentiful as the auto and armament industries concentrated in Detroit.

Housing was an issue but many of those that migrated to Detroit in the early days were just the breadwinners and they combined into the few houses that were available in the slums. However, as the population grew, housing was a major issue that was not being resolved by the city. In fact, prejudice exacerbated the problem, making meeting the base need for shelter five times more expensive through substandard housing in the black neighborhoods than it was in other parts of Detroit.

Nonetheless, during the first half of the century, poverty and oppression of the South was so great that Southern whites and blacks both poured into the densely populated neighborhoods of the city. Yet, many of the requirements of a sustainable city were not being met. For instance, while cities can be sustained even with severe personal prejudices existing amongst the population, in Detroit, these prejudices were prevalent within the institutions of government and business. Food and housing in black neighborhoods cost significantly more than in other neighborhoods. Segregated healthcare caused much higher mortality rates amongst the black population than amongst whites. Arrest and conviction rates for similar crimes were higher for blacks. Job hiring and promotion practices were rampantly and overtly bigoted. School systems were financed differentially and outcome differentials were materially different. And as highways replaced transit, transportation became an issue for those that could not afford it. Even today, 60 years later, 22% of Detroit’s citizens cannot afford personal transportation.

Yet migration continued. Detroit experienced reactionary riots and high crime. The city became landlocked for industry and its housing stock that had been built to support neighborhood factories now crammed in every space in town. Nonetheless, until factory jobs reached the zenith, Detroit did meet some sustainable city requirements. The cost of living was under union wages. City services were functional. The proximity of factories to houses made transportation adequate. Crime was still under a threshold of adequacy given the other benefits of the city. And driven by the auto and armament boom, a growing city government met its obligations through a balanced budget.

But Detroit’s growth was in spite of meeting man’s higher hierarchical needs not because of them. During the early part of the 20th century, most cities in America were dealing with similar problems, especially the big cities like Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, and Chicago. So despite Detroit’s lack of insight on the future its institutional racism would bring the city, Detroit thrived with little competition. Detroit was the center of the auto universe and the free world’s arsenal.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Bureaucracy, City Planning, Racism, social trajectory

Racial Collisions in Low Wage Inner Cities Correlate to Fluctuating Murder Rates But Did They Cause the Fluctuations?

HomicideRatesIn a country that has not resolved its racial issues, and in which migration to the cities of immigrants and African Americans to compete for jobs and inadequate housing has risen and fallen, these events have correlated with America’s murder rates that have shifted dramatically over the decades.

The vast majority of murders have been committed by minorities of ages 18-24 in the poorest neighborhoods of larger cities. Homicide rates amongst this group approach 25 per 100,000 population. National homicide rates recently have dropped substantially from their highs of 10.2 to now 4.8 per 100,000.

Prior to the Civil War, beginning in the 1840s, America received a swell of immigrants due to the potato famine in Europe. After the Civil War, America began its Westward Railroad expansion. Railroads incentives to populate the lands around the rails and America’s Homesteading Act created the impetus for a peak in immigration to levels previously unseen at 327,000 per year. 86% came from northern Europe. Homicide rates varied across the country but were relatively small, at 0.3 to 0.8 per 100,000.

After a lull during the Long Depression, immigration increased again to fill the working ranks of the industrial era. In 1881, immigration rose to 525,000. After another lull for the 1893 depression, in the peak industrial era years prior to WW1, immigration swelled again to 891,000 per year. During the rise of the industrial era, 69% of immigrants came from central and southern Europe. After 1900 up until WWI, homicides nationally rose precipitously from 1 to 6 per 100,000. A majority of immigrants during this period were single young men seeking temporary employment.

During WWI, immigration then dropped to 276,000 right at a time when more manufacturing workers were needed for the war effort, creating the major draw for African Americans to venture north in what was called the Great Migration. During the war, the murder rate dropped to 4 per 100,000 as 800,000 African Americans migrated to northern cities to support the war effort, but then spiked to 7 per 100,000 as the troops came home.

In the 1920s, immigration rose to 412,000 a year. During the 1920s another 800 African Americans migrated north and prohibition was enacted. As labor wages dropped due to increased competition for jobs in the inner cities, and crimes associated with prohibition soared, the homicide rate climbed steadily to a national record of 9.7 per 100,000 not to be topped until the 1970s.

Immigration plummeted during the worldwide depression to only 50,000 per year and net migration halted. During the depression, the national murder rate dropped to 6 per 100,000.

As the young people left to fight WWII, the homicide rate in America dropped to 5 per 100,000 but then increased immediately after the war to 6.4 per 100,000.

After WWII, immigration steadily grew from 252,000 in 1947 to 950,000 in 1990. From WW1 through 1960, 46% came from the western hemisphere. After 1960, immigration shifted toward Asian countries. From a near term peak of 6.4 per 100,000, the murder rate dropped to a low of 4.5 in 1955 and climbed back slowly to 5 per 100,000 by 1965. Then it accelerated to 10.2 through the 1970s as many of our cities declined, and drug use increased.

During the recession of 1981, the homicide rate fell to 7.9 but then rose again to a peak of 9.8 per 100,000 by 1991. From the mid 1980s until the present, illegal alien population increased from 2.5 million to over 22 million by some estimates.

From that high, homicide rates have steadily fallen to lows not seen since the 1950s of 4.8 per 100,000. During this period, 816,000 illegal aliens that had committed criminal acts were removed from the United States. In addition, northern cities saw a reverse migration of African Americans of 3 million back to southern states. Also, the prison population swelled from 600,000 to 1.6 million with increased prison terms and a war on drugs.

While migration, immigration, and incarceration seem to correlate with murder rates, they do not explain what the causes are of these shifts. Dramatic shifts from 0.3 to 10.2 and back to 4.8 murders per 100,000 have occurred in the course of a century. Murder rates in our inner cities have been a significant factor of their demise. Understanding what causes murder rates to have risen and fallen could be a significant key in determining a system solution.

The “experts” are in disagreement as to the cause of the downward trend in murders suggesting the following as possible reasons:

1. Dropped lead from gasoline which reduced lead poisoning that causes aggressive behavior
2. Abortion of 50 million from potentially dysfunctional mothers eliminated criminal element
3. More criminals in prison and longer jail sentences for violent offenders
4. Baby boomers are getting older
5. Violent video games release aggression
6. More cops on the beat
7. Targeted stop and frisks
8. Stand your ground laws have frightened would be assailants
9. Increased poverty reduced mobility
10. Shifting drug use patterns from those associated with higher crime rates to prescription drug abuse
11. Increased youth social programs in the cities
12. Increased social safety nets
13. More people out of work and in their homes
14. Waning crack epidemic
15. Increased gun ownership
16. Better life saving techniques in hospitals
17. More investment in inner cities
18. Gun control laws enacted
19. Gun control laws are repealed
20. Fusion centers integrate law efforts
21. The Fed has curbed inflation
22. Cell phones put more witnesses on the scene
23. Gentrification
24. Wealth moved away from criminals
25. 18-24 age group decreased 20% in past two decades

Each “expert” has listed on or more of the reasons above, yet many of the experts contradict each other. Some, for instance, might hang their hat solely on better policing and give their reasoning. Others will state it has nothing to with policing or several other reasons but will suggest their ironclad reasons for the decline. Some provide statistical correlations to prove their point and others provide countering data. Interestingly, as a side note, very few will glaringly suggest anything about gun control laws.

The analyses remind me of the 2011 film starring Jonah Hill called Moneyball about how a young economics graduate, suddenly turned scout, applied statistical analysis to the sport of baseball and changed the game. He proved that a systems approach was better than all the scouting experts in the game who had their own subjective views and approaches.

Nonetheless, even though violent crime rates have dramatically reduced, they are still significantly higher than the base rates existing prior to the 20th century. And violent crime rates in inner cities are much higher than national averages, even if they too are also dropping precipitously. Since crime is a prime reason for flight and blight, understanding why it is so much higher in the inner city and understanding what push and pull strategies have been effective thus far might lead us to advance other strategies that could be successful if applied in conjunction. Yet, what might appear logical in isolation might have no basis in application.

For instance, the average street dope dealer makes less than minimum wage in the business and yet subjects himself to great dangers. Providing realistic hope over generations for real employment in productive jobs making $12 per hour might seem a logical solution in isolation. Yet, studies have suggested that merely adding jobs that pay more than drug pushing will not significantly alter a drug pushers behavior or crime even if they take the job. They simply alter their retail hours to supplement legitimate work.

The solution has to be systemwide to be effective. It might entail not only a rebalance of work opportunities, but of education, law enforcement, the drug war, social programs, financial access, city planning, and other equally valid components to reverse the trends of our cities.

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Roger Ebert Noted America’s Prejudice at the Epoch of the Great Migration


The nation noted the passing of Roger Ebert yesterday. Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reviews, was known as the most influential movie critic of his time. Before I turned to “Rotten Tomatoes” as a guide on how to spend my movie dollars, for years I relied on the thumbs up of Siskel and Ebert.

Ebert claimed that movies provide a snapshot of the soul of a nation in the era they are filmed. One movie that he and Siskel gave two thumbs up was a 1915 silent film called “The Birth of a Nation”. Ebert said: “The Birth of a Nation” is not a bad film because it argues for evil. Like Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”, it is a great film that argues for evil. To understand how it does so is to learn a great deal about film, and even something about evil.” Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 100% positive rating.

What did this box office hit movie, produced by a Southerner, and allegedly endorsed by Woodrow Wilson before he reversed his words after condemnation by the NAACP, say about the views of America?

* Black militia ransacked white homes, disregarding white America

* Black men lusted after and raped white women

* White southerners suffered the humiliation of having to salute to blacks

* The Klan was a needed defense against such injustice

* The former enemies of North and South united again in their Aryan birthright.

* After rising to thwart the injustice committed on whites by blacks, the Klan intimidated them into not voting, thereby reinstalling the rightful white political leadership

Of the film, Ebert remarked:

“It is a stark history lesson to realize that this film, for many years the most popular ever made, expressed widely-held and generally acceptable white views. The producer’s paternalistic reply to accusations that he was anti-Negro: “To say that is like saying I am against children, as they were our children, whom we loved and cared for all of our lives.”


“[The producer] and “The Birth of a Nation” were no more enlightened than the America which produced them. The film represents how racist a white American could be in 1915 without realizing he was racist at all. That is worth knowing. Blacks already knew that, had known it for a long time, witnessed it painfully again every day, but “The Birth of a Nation” demonstrated it in clear view, and the importance of the film includes the clarity of its demonstration. That it is a mirror of its time is, sadly, one of its values. “

Ebert commented on what was the accepted culture of 1915 in the year before the great migration of African Americans northward to the cities. 1915 was 50 years after the Civil War. In cities where the majority of citizens were either too young to have experienced its horrors, (Viet Nam War ended 40 years ago) or immigrants whose histories were not shaped by our past, nonetheless, the pervasive culture that permeated our cities at the start of the “African American Invasion” still reflected the Reconstruction years. The ensuing conflicts of the migration would set the stage for our inner city collapses to come.

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Entrapment in Hopeless Terror Breeds Isolation and Violence


Some people move to far off countries for the adventure. Most of us live in familiar surroundings near family and friends until circumstances make familiarity untenable. Either life would have to be miserable or the opportunity great to uproot our families. Thankfully, our opportunities are made less severe by highways, moving companies, airlines, telecommunications, computes and vacations, that can in some ways lessen the risks and stresses of leaving our connections.

But what if we were told that if we moved away we might live a third less years, that our children would have a 40% chance of not surviving childhood, and that we would have a 15% chance we might not even make it to our destination alive? What if we were told we would face hostile people that wanted to kill us when we arrived and aggressive new diseases that would sweep through our community yearly for which there was no defense, killing many new arrivals? How great would the opportunity have to be?

These were just a few of the risks the colonists faced when making the decision to come to America. Yet, in the years before the American Revolution, a quarter-million Europeans voluntarily boarded ships bound for the colonies, in addition to the 210,000 slaves and 50,000 convicts that were forced to make the journey.

Of course, the untenable conditions that some colonists faced if they remained in their homelands were enough to incite anyone to immigrate if they could afford it. Some colonists faced such terrors as hanging, disembowelment or being burned alive for their religious beliefs. Convicts faced hanging for sometimes even minor offenses. For those that faced such extremes, fleeing to America seemed a reasonable alternative, even if half of those fleeing had to sign away seven years of their lives as virtual slaves just to escape.

Those in servitude in the colonies, and even more so those in slavery, found themselves in similar untenable conditions as those that escaped to the colonies. Yet, the end of the Civil War brought very few options for freedpeople to improve their lives.

Southern plantation owners were determined to bind ex slaves to their old life through terror. Through vagrancy laws, ex slaves either had to become quickly employed or they would face imprisonment. Most therefore signed annual contracts that forced their servitude, for plantation owners only accepted annual contracts to enforce the old life. Ex slave misery continued, for if a contract employees raised any issues, employers could cancel their contracts and have them imprisoned.

A few freedmen found menial work in towns. Still, most yearned for their own plot of land to start a new life apart from psychological and physical torture. Earlier in 1862, the Federal government had passed the Homestead Act, enabling people to immigrate West to claim 160 acre plots, yet few African Americans took advantage of the opportunity. Why not?…Was their plight not so untenable after all?
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Clif Carothers • The answer why so few immigrated is similar to why so few Europeans chose to immigrate to the colonies. The perceived rewards of westward relocation had to overcome the grave risks. To survive, a freedman would have to leave family and friends and find their way to a gateway city. They then would need to buy supplies to travel to and to survive in homesteading lands. They would then have to find a plot that could produce, that had adequate planting soil, water, and sun exposure. After finding a claim, they would stake it, build a home from the land, clear the land, plant a crop and then survive while attending it until it produced. While working the land, they would face the risks of periodic droughts, Indian attacks, and sweeping disease.

Still, all of this incredible risk seemed worthwhile to many. Yet, just to start westward, a potential immigrant would need enough funds for the travel, supplies, a year’s food, crop seeds, farming equipment and the like. At a minimum, they needed $1,000, which the vast majority of ex slaves did not have. In the absence of government assistance, some assistance societies cropped up to help 20,000 freedpeople get the funds to immigrate to Kansas and Colorado in the 1880s and ‘90s.

Yet, even the few that did immigrate had to escape the organized gangs that dragged immigrants attempting to leave off the trains. Then, lynch mobs terrorized those that tried to leave as signals to others that were contemplating immigration. During the first few decades, a dozen lynchings occurred each month throughout the South, spreading terror and misery to freedpeople, trapped in their circumstances.

The first few decades after the war did succeed in planting the seeds of migration as a possible solution to terror. These seeds would grow into the Great Migration and the Second Great Migration that would eventually populate the northern industrial cities with descendants of ex slaves. Yet, in the intervening years, the entrapment in a hopeless culture of terror became the breeding ground for intergenerational isolation and violence as a response. Could this developing subculture have been one of the root causes of the demise of our inner cities?

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