The Uneasy Exodus

Clues about the motives of the migrants come in a variety of forms including this poem by an unknown author.

From Florid's story banks I go;
I bid the South "Good Bye."
No longer shall they treat me so
And knock me in the eye.

The northern states is where I'm bound,
My cross is more than double,
If the chief executive can be found,
I'll tell him all my trouble.
Arise, you Darkies now a slave,
Your chance at last has come;
Hold up your head with courage brave,
'Cause times are changing come;
All before this change was made
They took me for a tool
No respect for me was paid,
They classed me for a fool.

Anyone doing the work I do
Is paid four dollars per day,
But I must lie, and steal some, too,
To get one-half that pay.
Then they pay me off in trashy mess,
And cheat me in the deal;
They force me hard to work for less
And arrest me when I steal.

Why should I remain longer south
To be kicked and dogged around?
Crackers to knock me in the mouth
And shoot my brother down.
I would rather the cold to snatch my breath
And die from natural cause
Then to stay down south and be beat to death Under cracker laws.

To Start You Thinking -

  • 1) List all of the factors in the poem that the author includes to encourage migration north.

  • 2) What changes in life is the author expecting up north?

  • 3) Do some research on the Internet or in an historical dictionary and describe the origins of the word "cracker" as used in the poem.

"The Uneasy Exodus," as found in E. Marvin Goodwin, The Black Migration in America from 1915 to 1960, (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellin Press, 1990).
Last modified in October, 2011 by Rick Thomas