Photo of Route 61 in the Delta.

Route 61, Mississippi Delta

  The landscape of the Mississippi Delta stretches flat and empty beyond the horizon. In January, the fields are dead. Only a few pieces of cotton remain attached to their stalks reenforcing the feeling of overwhelming desolation with each passing mile of the seemingly endless road of route 61. Houses are few and far between. It is almost like no one lives in the Delta anymore. Driving through towns there is no Main Street. The remains of the main streets in each town are the same. Locked up behind the plywood that covers each storefront windows are better days that can be seen through the broken glass. There was once a busy life in the Mississippi Delta, but now hardly anything is left. What brought the Delta to such a demise? The answer lies in the Great Migration and
the reasons that forced thousands of African American families to leave their homes and attempt a better life in the northern cities of America.
The two World Wars provided well-timed opportunities for African Americans to leave their lives as sharecroppers in the South and to redefine their status in the North. Newspapers such as the Chicago Defender described the abounding possibilities in the city. Economic conditions in the South could not sustain life for the sharecropper. Years of farming and borrowing on credit forced the sharecropper deeper into debt. A vicious cycle that only stopped when the sharecropper left the Delta. Sharecroppers left for opportunities that did not exist in the South.

Families left the Delta either together or separately. Often times men traveled to the North first to secure work and a home before sending for

Photo of the crossroads.
The Crossroads

their wives and children. Other times, people traveled North to pursue vocations other than farming. Regardless, they left the Delta in search of the "American Dream." They left with whatever they had on their backs, some never to return, others to fell weak to nostalgia and returned to Mississippi. Nevertheless, African American families from the Delta, experienced a change in life, attitude, and social status when they migrated.

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