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The Great Migration
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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

The Railroad Companies Recruit in the South

In July 1916, one railroad company stated that it had brought thirteen thousand black southerners to Philadelphia. The railroad companies benefited from the Great Migration in two ways: they got laborers, and they sold hundreds of thousands of tickets to the migrants, since the train was the most common means of transportation. An officer of the Illinois Central Railroad said, "We took Negro labor out of the South until it hurt." However, the low wages in the railroad industry itself led to a large turnover, which forced the train companies to continue recruiting heavily in the South. Among nine thousand men brought by the Erie Railroad within six months, fewer than two thousand had worked long enough for the company to pay for their transportation.

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