Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Judith Stein

Committee Members

Joshua Freeman

Thomas Kessner

Clarence Taylor

George White

Subject Categories



This dissertation explores black New York in the 1940s with an emphasis on the demographic, economic, and social effects of the World War II migration of blacks to the city. Using census data this study examines the basic characteristics of the migrants moving to New York during the war years; characteristics such as state of origin, age, and sex. It also maps where these migrants settled in the city revealing new areas of black settlement outside of Harlem, the largest black neighborhood in the city.

Black New Yorkers, looking to escape the high rents, dilapidated living conditions, and increasing crime rates left Harlem. Attracted to the integrated working-class neighborhood by the abundance of newer housing, better schools, and fresher air, hundreds of Harlem's families settled in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. Thousands of new migrants chose to move to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn which was in close proximity to many of the city's war industries and where a small black community already existed. Many of Bedford-Stuyvesant's white residents opposed black settlement; some organizing campaigns to prevent blacks from moving in and others fleeing the neighborhood. By the end of the 1940s white flight and black settlement had transformed Bedford-Stuyvesant into New York City's second largest black neighborhood.

One of the primary reasons southern blacks migrated to New York during World War II was employment opportunities available in war industries. When New York factories began converting to war production, many did not hire black workers and those that did placed them in unskilled and janitorial positions. This dissertation explains the process by which blacks found skilled and semi-skilled jobs in industries making ships, electrical instruments, and scientific instruments.

Civil Rights organizations, most importantly the Brooklyn Urban League, pressured the state and federal governments into taking steps to integrate war industries. These organizations used the State War Council's Committee on Discrimination and the Fair Employment Practices Committee to open new occupations to African Americans and ensure the fair treatment of those blacks employed in war industries. Initiatives for equal employment opportunities for blacks were at the center of civil rights activism during the 1940s.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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