Migrating to the North - Paper on the Play 'A Raisan in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry: The Harsh Laws Known as the Jim Crow Laws that African Americans Faced in the 19th and 20th Century

Migrating to the North - Paper on the Play 'A Raisan in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry: The Harsh Laws Known as the Jim Crow Laws that African Americans Faced in the 19th and 20th Century

During the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, many African-Americans were subject to harsh laws known as the Jim Crow laws. These laws limited if not segregated African-Americans entirely from people who are of white background; considering Africa-Americans as second class citizens within the Southern States. As a result, many families migrated to the North, where African-Americans found some of the liberties as their white brethren but still considered as an outsider in total equity. In her play, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, she gives an example of the life style most African-Americans endured once they had traveled to the north.

The Southern States were the last to abolish slavery so officials and citizen alike whom were white, still had the mentality that African-Americans were less so they treated them as such. The Jim Crow laws were a prime example of how people of white background thought of African-Americans. An example of the Jim Crow laws includes separate entrances, waiting rooms, restrooms, and separate water fountains (Jim Crow Laws 508-510). Everything had to be separate,separate; a partition was required to separate the whites from the colored if they had to share a room while in public. They were treated with no respect so African-Americans left the South and headed north with dreams of a better future.

African-Americans have been fighting for equality since the Civil War. With the founding of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in 1906, and other civil rights activists for decades. With the enactment of the Jim Crow Laws in the south after the Civil war many African-Americans moved to the Northern Cities and States only to discover that even though these laws were not in the north, they were still faced with inequality, with little or no money and jobs being scarce if nonexistent for them. They once again found themselves working for white people as domestics, farm laborers; only this time African-Americans were not property they were paid for their services an extreme minimal wage.

The migration from the South to the North started in the 19th century; according to James Grossman in his article “The Great Migration” he states “Although migration from the South had contributed to Chicago's black community since the 1840s, the city offered few opportunities to dissatisfied black southerners until World War I. Chicago, like the rest of the North, offered freedom from legally sanctioned racial discrimination, but industrial employers turned away African Americans who approached the factory gates.” Starting out a new life was difficult at first because many African-Americans were still under the stigma of slavery but still managed to find a better life after migrating to the Northern States.
“With an active war, manufactures and employers needed their goods made and a new work force was needed. Factories and businesses started to accept people of color who were willing to do the hard work that was asked of them ” (Grossman). Giving African-Americans the right to work, allowed them to earn money which help change Northern States economic standings. Allowing African-Americans to make purchases, added to the growth of a city or a state’s economic gain, instead of being burdens to those cities or states.

Adding a new spin on the way of life in dominantly white neighborhoods was the addition of African-Americans into an already rich culture. As a result, the birth a new era that mixed old white heritage with old time color heritage known as the Chicago Renaissance. This new mixture culminated in new cuisine, churches, religion, and music which included the Blues, and Jazz. During the early start of the migrating north, the heavily white dominated cites treated African-Americans with less respect, but treated them like humans nonetheless and towards the end of 1940’s, started to accept them and together allowed this new culture grow.

In “A Raisin in the Sun” Lena Younger, an African-American woman who is five generations removed from slavery living in Chicago. The Younger’s are living in a one to two bedroom apartment having to share a bathroom with other tenants. The Younger’s suffer through this because they are of color and for the time period gives them little to work with and a few places to live, for example; her family will not be welcomed in areas that are dominantly white. However, since African-Americans are more welcomed in areas that are dominantly black or mixed, the Younger’s can enjoy better liberties then if they stayed in the south.

Lena’s daughter, Beneatha , is an intelligent young woman who is working towards a higher education and is not dreaming of but actually studying to become a doctor. Female doctors of the 1950’s were rare and far in between, and black doctors where even more uncommon. And Beneatha is trying to strive to be more then what she was something she would never have even dreamed of if she was still in the south. Her brother, Walter Younger, was tired of living in poverty and wanted his family to invest in a store, so his family could possibly live better. Another concept, another thought that would have never been plausible with the restrictions placed on African-Americans in the south.

Those restrictions with Southern racism forced many African-Americans to flee. It was in “A Raisin in the Sun” that Lena/Mama expresses her fear of what would happen if she and her husband Big Walter were caught “In my time we was worried about not being lynched and getting to the North if we could” (639). She wanted a better life if not for herself, but for her children, and grandchildren. After coming to a Northern State, Lena and Big Walter had plans for their future as so many African-Americans of the time. Although their plans may have never took off into a house with a garden that Lena has dreamed about it is still in the back of her mind.

Her children may not have seem grateful in the beginning but over time both Walter and Beneatha have learned the sacrifices their parents have made for them, Beneatha herself has taken a huge leap in wanting to be come a doctor. Walter allowed himself to be taken by the need to settle down and start a family, and begins to doubt his choices and tries to change his luck around and use the money his father worked hard for and invest into a store just to have that thought ripped out of him by his own friend that stole his money. Not before Lena buys a real house for her family, something that she and Big Walter have always planned on owning for themselves one day. They need to count on each other, trust that each other is there for each other.

Not only were the Youngers or perhaps Lorraine Hansberry herself, but every single man, woman, and child of color for centuries have been faced with many challenges. Whether it is from hash laws like the Jim Crow Laws, where colored families cannot adopt white children or vice versa, but people of color can look after white children because they’re a servant. Equal rights was also a major factor to migrate to the north, African-Americans had nothing to call their own in the Southern States. Once they went up north, they still had nothing but they had better opportunities in the north.

Works Cited
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun.
: The Human Experience, shorter 9th edition
Ed. Richard Abcarian. Boston: 2009. 609-862. Print
Jim Crow Laws.
Literature: The Human Experience, shorter 9th edition
Ed. Richard Abcarian. Boston: 2009. 508-510. Print
Grossman, James. The Great Migration.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2005.
Chicago Historical Society. Web