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The Great Migration: African Americans and the Growth of the Urban North
Resources and Links

Theme: The Peopling of America: Migration and Immigration
Topic: The Great Migration: African Americans and the Growth of the Urban North
Date: December 2004

Annotated Bibliography | Secondary Sources | Primary Sources | Children's Literature | Websites and Web Resources | Related Archives and Collections | Other

Resources and Links compiled and annotated by Andrew Darien, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Annotated Bibliography

Compiled and annotated by Andrew Darien, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Secondary Sources

Barrett, James P. “Americanization from the Bottom Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880-1930.” Journal of American History. December 1992: 996-1020.

 Focuses on the relationship between two groups of immigrant workers at the turn of the 20th century: those from Canada and northern Europe who were already established in cities, and the “new” immigrants from southern and eastern Europe as well as the Mexican and African American migrants who came to cities in this period.  Explores the efforts and means by which various groups (old immigrants, radical groups, workplace management) attempted to either Americanize the new population or keep them from becoming Americanized. 

Boyle, Kevin. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. New York: Henry Holt and Co.,2004

This highly acclaimed book traces the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black doctor whose family history begins in slavery and follows the Great Migration north to industrial cities. With his own professional status secured, Sweet moves his young family into an all-white middle class neighborhood in Detroit, only to find a mob outside his door. When shots ring out and a white man dies, Sweet becomes a controversial figure at the center of a sensational murder trial—he is defended by Clarence Darrow. By focusing on this forgotten but telling series of events in Detroit in the 1920s, Boyle brings into sharp focus the complexities (and wide-ranging ideas about) race, class and equality in modernizing America. His writing is novelistic and gripping.

Brundage, W.F. Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Well-written examination of the “whys” behind patterns of lynching in two distinct areas of the South, tracing the relationship between ideology, politics, established race relations, and patterns of labor and the presence of this horrific form of racial violence that shaped American life and culture well into the 20th century.

Drake, St. Clair and Horace R. Clayton. Black Metropolis. Chicago: University of             Chicago Press, 1945

Ground-breaking in its day, this examination of race and urban life remains a landmark study. Based on research conducted by WPA filed workers in the late 1930s, it is an historical and sociological account of people living on Chicago’s South Side. This study offered a generalized analysis of black migration, settlement, community structure, and black-white relations in the early 20th century.

Ehrenhalt. Alan. The Lost City: The Forgotten Virtues of Community in America. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

This exploration of the challenges and positives of life in 1950s America focuses on three neighborhoods in Chicago and highlights the ways in which community ideals and communal experiences developed in the midst of restrictions and limited liberties in each one. Part III of the book takes up “Bronzeville” centrally, and in providing a close look at the patterns of daily life there, Ehrenhalt sets up a comparison with his other two subjects: an ethnic, working class Catholic neighborhood and a middle class suburb.

Gaines, Kevin. Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the             Twentieth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Discusses the ideas (and diversity of ideas) developed by elite blacks who saw  themselves as the example of what self-help and service could offer to the “masses” who, if morally and materially altered, could help put an end to white racism.  Drawing on the work of W. E. B. DuBois, Anna Julia Cooper, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Hubert H. Harrison, and others, Gaines shows how the class-distinctions and paternalistic ideas imbedded in uplift philosophies worked to underscore ideas about black pathology and, in turn, undermine efforts to eliminate racist beliefs.

Gilmore, Glenda. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 1996.

Gilmore argues that in a period when white supremacy worked to keep black men disenfranchised, middle-class black women operated as diplomats to the white community and activists on behalf of their male counterparts. Their efforts helped set the stage for a legacy of black female involvement in social change that helps explain the centrality of women in the civil rights movement activities of the 1950s and 60s.

Grossman, James. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Examines and describes the meaning of the Great Migration from the perspective of the migrants, giving them agency in all aspects of the migration from decisions to leave the South, to the shape of social and working lives in the North.

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940. New York: Pantheon, 1998.

This is a profoundly important book that explains how and why whiteness came to be such a crucial, embattled—and disturbing—component of 20th century American identity.

Hine, Darlene Clark. “Black Migration to the Urban Midwest: the Gender Dimension, 1915-1945”. In The Great Migration in Historical Perspective: New Dimensions             of Race, Class, and Gender. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Seminal essay challenging idea that African American women’s role in migration was confined to role(s) kinship networks. Argues instead, that there is a specifically gendered element of African American population movement.

Hirsch, Arnold. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

An elegant study of how Chicago institutionalized segregated housing in the post war years and how that city’s policies and struggles impacted post-war urban renewal in America.

Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. New York: Routledge, 1995.

A fascinating and provocative look—focused on the history of the relationships between Irish and African-Americans—at the way in which race and class came together and pulled apart in the mid 19th century, resulting in the ability of Irish Americans to gain acceptance into the white “race.” Ignatiev highlights the ways the Irish used labor unions, the Catholic Church and the Democratic party to gain and secure their position in the White Republic. Makes clear the constructed nature of race in general, and “whiteness” in particular.

Charles S. Johnson.  Patterns of Negro Segregation. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1943.

            At a time when there was little understanding of the extent and persistence of             black-white residential segregation in American cities and little census data             available to document levels of trends over time, this book appeared as a             pioneering work. Johnson included a chapter on residential segregation and             housing issues. Book commissioned by Gunnar Myrdal and his collaborators.

Kotlowitz, Alex. There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in    The Other America. New York: Anchor Books, 1991.

A journalist’s inside look at the lives of two young boys coming of age in the late 1980s on Chicago’s South Side in the (mostly African-American) urban ghetto that developed in the post war years. A sobering look at urban America, and urban decay, and an instructive comparison to depictions of either the “Black Metropolis” or “Bronzeville” of earlier decades.

Kusmer, Kenneth L. 1976. A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland: 1870-1930. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1976

This book documents the shift of blacks being quite racially integrated in post Civil War Cleveland to their concentration in the East Side ghetto which continues into the 21st century.

Levering Lewis, Davis. W.E.B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919. New York:   Owl Books, 1993.

The standard-bearer of DuBois biographies by a renowned scholar. Treats the central fifty years of DuBois’ life and makes clear his impact on America.

Osofsky, Gilbert. Harlem, the Making of an Urban Ghetto: Negro New York, 1890-1930.  New York: Harper & Row, 1966.

Traces the racial transformation of Harlem from a white upper-middle-class   community to a predominately African American community. Locates roots of the ghetto formation in pre-WWI years.

Roediger, David. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. London: Verso, 1991.

An important contribution to the study of race and class, this book investigates the development of "white" identity among European-American workers in the North during the ante-bellum period.

Schneider. Mark R. Boston Confronts Jim Crow, 1890-1920. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1997.

Explores the ways in which Bostonians—despite the city’s history of abolitionist activism—generally retreated from any challenge to the discriminatory policies and ideas of the Jim Crow era. Schneider’s book traces—aside from the growth of the NAACP—the decline of Bostonians’ commitment to racial equality. Brahmins, African American leaders, immigrants, women…all are implicated in this book.

Spear, Alan H. Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.

Traces development of a segregated African American community on Chicago’s  South Side and identifies both the internal and external factors that helped create it. Argues in end that creation of ghetto was due to white hostility.

Sugrue. Thomas J. 1996. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Perhaps the best description of racial conflict in a major American cities during the post World War II era.

Trotter, Joe William Jr. Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat, 1915-1940. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985.

Focus on Miwaukee’s African American population. Includes a valuable exploration of racial segregation.

Trotter, Joe William Jr. Ed. The Great Migration in Historical Perspective: New             Dimensions of Race, Class, & Gender. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

A set of six high-quality essays and a useful historiographical introduction. Essays look at migration as more than merely a Northeast phenomenon. Essays also explore women’s experiences of migration as distinct from men’s.

Tuttle, William M. Jr. Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919. Chicago:             University of Illinois Press, 1996.

Important book-length examination of the complex set of factors (race, class, urban –industrial life) that shaped the riot of 1919.

Primary Sources

DuBois, W.E.B. Souls of Black Folk. Chicago:McClurg, 1903

This collection of nine essays which, when published in book form in 1903, brought DuBois to national attention and established him as one of the foremost thinkers in American history. This is an essential work of American history and  literature in which DuBois proclaims that “the problem of the Twentieth century is the problem of the color line” and begins his exploration of the concept and experience of “two-ness” for African Americans. 

Locke, Alain, ed. The New Negro, New York, 1925.         

Locke, who was “midwife” (his term) to the Harlem Renaissance, is heralded for his contribution to the development of a politically assertive African American art. The New Negro is an edited collection of poetry, stories, essays, and art created by a new generation of black artists including Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes. Edited by Locke, and containing an important introduction by him, the collection’s components collectively spoke for the “New Negro” who was at once race proud, and fully integrated into American social and political life.

Wright, Richard. Native Son. New York: Harper & Row, 1940.

The first best-seller by an African American and a literary work of art. The novel is an uncompromising look at the world and life of an African American youth from the underclass who is led to violence as a result of the white world’s oppression, hatred and lack of understanding.

Wright, Richard. Black Boy. New York: Harper & Row, 1945.

Wright’s autobiography (limited to his “childhood and youth”) chronicling his difficult early years as a boy in a profoundly limiting Jim Crow South. The son of a sharecropper and school teacher, Wright’s father left the family early in Wright’s life and his mother was stricken with paralysis. Wright grew up among relative’s homes in rural Mississippi and in Memphis, Tennessee before migrating  to Chicago, arriving there in 1929. Often refered to as an autobiographical novel because of the work’s literary style, Black Boy is a classic American autobiography; a coming-of-age story that is perhaps Wrights’ finest work.

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Children’s Books/ Resources

Hansen, Joyce. Women of Hope: African Americans who Made a Difference. Scholastic, 1999.

Twelve short biographies of African-American women accompanied by stunning black and white photographs. Includes Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Alice Walker, and Mae C. Jemison.  Includes a bibliography and list of additional amazing African-American women.

Lawrence. Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: Harper, 1993.

Between 1916 and 1919, harsh living conditions impelled large numbers of African Americans to leave their homes in the rural South for the promise of a better life in the industrialized North. In this book, Lawrence’s magnificent paintings (from his “The Migration Series” housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.) are paired with his own words about the story they tell. These paintings tell the story of the reasons for and experiences of the migration from the migrants’ point of view. The story has immediacy and power for a contemporary audience.

Footsteps. (September 2002) “The Great Migration” issue.

This issue of Footsteps—a children’s magazine of African American History (published by Cobblestone Publishing—is devoted to The Great Migration.

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Websites and Web Resources

Compiled and annotated by Andrew Darien, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

1919: Race Riots
Chicago Public Library

Part of a larger selective bibliography of Chicago Public Library collections related to “Deaths, Disturbances, Disasters and Disorders in Chicago,” this site makes available. The Coroner’s Report of 1919, which was based on examinations of 450 witnesses to the events of the summer of 1919 and offers both findings and recommendations about how to ease the underlying social and economic factors of the riots. There is also a map marking the location of action vis a vis the stock yards.

The African-American Experience in Ohio, 1850 - 1920
American Memory, Library of Congress

This selection of manuscript and printed texts and images drawn from the collections of the Ohio Historical society offer a rich look at African American history in Ohio. Note that in this collection are newspaper articles, editorials and cartoons, posters, advertisements and letters all related to the period and events of the Great Migration. Many of the newspapers in this collection refer to, or respond to events across the country so this is a great place to look for information about such events as the Chicago riot of 1919.

African-American History Tour
Chicago Landmark Commission

An online tour of some of the most important places on Chicago’s South Side vis a vis the Black Metropolis and the Great Migration.

The African-American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship
Library of Congress

A superb resource for all topics related to African-American History, this online exhibit showcasing the Library of Congress’s collections is divided in to 9 sections moving chronologically through time from Slavery to the Civil Rights era. Four sources tied to the Great Migration, its causes, its consequences and its connection to other events and issues in American history see in particular “The Booker T Washington Era” and “WWI-Post War Society.” Sources include books, films, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays and recordings. Highlights include a draft of Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Exposition Speech”, court cases challenging segregated housing in the 1910s, the 512 page Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War, 1919, and a poster depicting members of a segregated WWI unit as “True Sons of Freedom” Each section begins with a brief narrative overview of the concerns and highlights of the era under investigation.

African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
American Memory, Library of Congress.

This site presents a collection of 350 African-American pamphlets and documents.  The vast majority were created between 1875 and 1900 and combined, offer a wonderful window onto African American leaders and African-American social, cultural, organizational and intellectual life at the end of the 19th century. This eclectic collection includes sermons, college catalogs, slave narratives, orations, Congressional speeches, poetry and plays and the topics covered include many critical topics both of the day and to historians: segregation, voting rights, the colonization movement, violence against African Americans. Authors include Frederic Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells Barnett.

Chicago’s Black Metropolis: Understanding History Through a Historic Places (Lesson Plan)Teaching with Historic Places, The National Register of Historic Places

Created by historians and education specialists for the “Teaching with Historic Places” effort of the National Register of Historic Places and the National Park Service, this in-depth lesson plan—highlighting the built environment—focuses on the growth of and life in the “Black Metropolis,” by exploring the remaining eight buildings in and one monument to the once vibrant, self-supporting African-American community which developed and flourished on Chicago’s South Side in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries (the area was called ‘the metropolis’ by contemporaries and by 1930 was considered a city-within-a-city). The lesson is driven by source analysis, interpretation and contextualization and highlights the importance of historic structures and sites.

Chicago: Destination for the Great Migration
Library of Congress

Part of the Library of Congress’ on-line resource “The African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black Culture” this site includes primary documents related to the Great Migration. Included are letters sent to the Defender by prospective migrants, and maps of Chicago. Look too, at the source materials related to continued racial discrimination, labor problems and segregation in Chicago through the 1940s.

Footsteps (September 2002) “The Great Migration” issue – Teachers Guide

Activities and lessons created for use with this issue of Footsteps, an award-winning children’s magazine of African American history published by Cobblestone Publishing.

The Great Migration Lesson Plans

Lesson plans on The Great Migration for middle and high school students.

Great Migration Resources Page
University of Chicago at Illinois, Department of Education

This site offers links to primary source document collections and data sources on the great migration. A good entry point for further investigations. Includes links to American Memory collections and map resources.

The Great Migration: A Story in Paintings, Jacob Lawrence
Columbia University

An online version of Jacob Lawrence’s The Great Migration: An American Story. Wonderful for showing to a whole class.

“Goin’ to Chicago”—Website to accompany the PBS documentary of the same name

In addition to offering an original essay by historian James Grossman, this website (an accompaniment to the documentary of the same name) includes or links to multiple primary sources, teacher resources, lesson ideas and background information for contextualizing  and teaching  about the migrations of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North in the 20th century. The specific focus is  on the lesser known “Second Great Migration” after WWII.

“Chicago and the ‘Great Migration’”
Illinois History Teacher Vol. 3:2, 1995: 33-44 Illinois Periodicals On-Line

This entire volume (3:2) of Illinois History Teacher is devoted to essays and curriculum materials related to issues of race, migration, and Chicago’s African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The section on “Chicago and the ‘Great Migration’” includes an original essay (“Historical Research and Narrative,”) by James Grossman which summarizes the factors involved in, and outcomes of the Great Migration from the perspective of the migrants and a set of primary source-based comprehensive curriculum materials aimed at grade 9-12 students and U.S. History standards.

“In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience”
(under construction in Dec. 2004)

A website currently under development by scholars at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, will be devoted to tracing and telling the history of 13 migrations of African Americans to, out of and within the United States from the years of the transatlantic slave trade to the contemporary immigration of Caribbeans, Haitians, and sub-Saharan Africans. Books, narratives, manuscripts, essays, images and music will “illustrate the conditions that led to these forced and voluntary migrations, as well as to the effects they had on the receiving communities and the nation as a whole.” (quoted from website). There will be an educational component of the site, especially for classroom teachers.

Jazz and the Great Migration
Chicago Jazz Archives, Regenstein Archive, University of Chicago.

This web page is a stellar resource for teachers who are planning a unit on the Great Migration (with a Chicago emphasis), and, in particular, the relationship between the Great Migration and Chicago Jazz. Provides a host of wonderful links to print, video and music sources on the web. Many of the links are to sites with teacher resources, including lesson plans and curricular ideas.

Migration North to the Promised Land (Curriculum Unit)

This in-depth Curriculum Unit made available by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute includes five detailed lesson which make use of primary and secondary sources to tell the complex story of the causes, experiences and consequences of the Great Migration for migrants, and the northern cities they moved to. With a particular focus on the New York area, this unit does a fantastic job of linking the Great Migration to/with the growth of Harlem and the rise of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Migration Series
Whitney Museum of American Art

Creators of this site use the Jacob Lawrence text to create elementary school lesson plans. This comprehensive site includes resources for teachers, a webquest, and a wide variety of ideas for classroom instruction.

Photographs from the Chicago Daily News, 1902-1933
Library of Congress

This collection, searchable by keyword, includes a fair number of photographs of the aftermath of the 1919 race riots.

Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929
American Memory, Library of Congress.

This online collection of materials from an era generally seen as one of unrivaled prosperity also includes sources which highlight the economic forces and challenges in the lives of African American industrial workers—as well as examples of black-owned businesses and evidence African American consumer activity. Some documents comment on economic factors of the Great Migration, such as articles from Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, begun in 1922 as the official voice of the Urban League. Others deal specifically with the hardship and poverty of African Americans. Still others trace efforts at promoting economic self-sufficiency for African-Americans, such as material from the Universal Negro Improvement Association begun in 1914 by Marcus Garvey. In the 1920s, in an era of heightened African American cultural identity, many journals and magazines (such as The Messenger, founded in 1917 by A. Philip Randolph) featured ads for black owned businesses along with cultural and artistic expressions. The rich and varied sources on this site can be located by keyword searches from the home page.

The Push and Pull of the Great Migration
University of Michigan, Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This site examines multiple strands of the black migration in the early 20th century, with a particular emphasis (note this is a site linked to the Botanical Gardens) on the relationship between plants and foodstuffs and African/ African-American migrations more generally. Offers some information on the relationship between the demise of the cotton crop in the South (by boll weevil) and both the resulting strategies for physical survival (foodstuffs) and the environmental “push” factors of the Great Migration.

"The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow"

This is a website designed to accompany the 4-part PBS series by the same name. Includes substantial background essays, ideas for how to use film in class, and fully-developed classroom activities as well as images, audio files of personal narratives, text sources and maps tracing development of Jim Crow legislation.

“Sharecroppers” – search in American Memory and Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection

To find images of sharecroppers search using keyword “Sharecropper” in the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (http://memory To find transcriptions and some audio of oral histories and interviews with sharecroppers from the 1930s conduct a keyword search “sharecropper” from the American Memory home page (

Up South: African-American Migration in the Era of the Great War Viewers Guide

On-line guide to accompany the documentary by the same name. Offers clear narrative essays tracing the migrants’ story and experiences from the sharecropping South through to the 1920s in the North. Each essay is accompanied by images and/documents illustrating the topic at hand. An excellent overview.

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Related Archives and Collections

--none listed at this time

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Other - Compiled and annotated by SALEM in History staff


Up South: African American Migration in the Era of the Great War. American Social History Project. 30 min.

Part of the Who Built America? documentary series created by the American Social History Project, Up South: African American Migration in the Era of the Great War.

Uses historic images and documents along with actors portraying ordinary people (a male barber and a female sharecropper) who organized migration clubs to Chicago and participated in the Great Migration. Explores the agency of the migrants, the challenges they faced both before and after migrating, and the complexities of life in the “promised land.” Covers many topics including the industrial workplace, black churches, the riots of 1919, black politics, women’s clubs and the “New Negro.” For more information on ordering see

“Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice.” Producer/Director, William Greaves, 1989. 53 min.

This multiple-award-willing documentary chronicles the dramatic life and turbulent times of the pioneering African American journalist, activist, suffragist and anti-lynching crusader of the post-Reconstruction period. Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison reads selections from Wells' memoirs and other writings. Wells, now all-to-often forgotten, was considered an equal of her more well known male contemporaries W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington and her voice led the campaign against the barbaric practice of lynching when so many were too afraid to speak out.  The documentary’s website ( provides discussion questions as well as downloadable/printable copies of her original letters.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.Executive Producers: Bill Jersey and William R. Grant, Series Producer: Richard WormserQuest Productions, VideoLine Productions and Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2002. 56 min.

“A landmark four-part series, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, explores segregation from the end of the civil war to the dawn of the modern civil rights movement. Lynchings and beatings by night. Demeaning treatment by day. And a life of crushing subordination for Southern blacks that was maintained by white supremacist laws and customs known as ‘Jim Crow.’”  (from series website This series won the prestigious Peabody Award. 

“Goin’ to Chicago.” Producer/Director, George King. George King & Associates. 1994. 71 minutes

Focusing on a group of Chicagoans, this film chronicles and explores the “Second Great Migration”–the migration of African American from the rural South to the North and West after WWII. In these years 4 million African Americans migrated North in search of decent paying jobs in factories, many hoping leave the oppressive sharecropping system which had fueled earlier migrations out of the South. Film traces the lives of a group of older Chicagoans mostly born in the Mississippi Delta. Highlights both the economic forces that pushed them out of the South and pulled them toward the industrial North as well as the creation of an life in Chicago’s post-war South Side when the city-within-a-city was proudly referred to as “Bronzeville.” But note that the film also explores the devastation and challenges this group of migrants faced when, in the post war years, the industrial economy of the North began to disappear and the South Side faced decline and urban decay. Film website (http://www/ includes a wide range of teacher resources, primary sources and background information. A rich learning and teaching tool.


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