When the European war erupted in 1914 the flow of immigrants to the United States was greatly curtailed, depriving developing American industries of their traditional supply of new laborers. Northern railroad and manufacturing firms then turned to the native blacks of the South as potential workers to fill the unskilled jobs so necessary to their continued growth. Southern blacks had been migrating northward in small numbers since before the turn of the century, but when northern companies began sending recruiters into the South the numbers accelerated enormously. Beginning with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s recruiting of several hundred blacks from Jacksonville, Florida, in early 1916, the “great migration” took more than a half million Negroes out of the South to northern industrial cities. They came from the southern rural regions where there had always been a large labor surplus. Now the massive exodus began to alarm turpentine, lumber, and agricultural producers, and caused glaring contradictions in the attitudes of white Southerners toward their black neighbors.
Shofner, Jerrell H.
"Florida and the Black Migration,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 57
, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol57/iss3/3