The exodus of African-Americans from the South did not, in truth, begin after the Civil War. While slavery had been the norm throughout much of colonial America, after the Revolution it was either eliminated in the North by constitutional provisions or by emancipation acts. The result was an exodus of many slaves heading north and west to “free” states in the early nineteenth century.

Carter Woodson, author-“A Century of Negro Migration”


The black population in Philadelphia grew steadily in the first decades after the Civil War, increasing by 43% from 22,147 in 1870 to 31,699 in 1880, and then by 24 % to 39,371 by 1890. Then, in the decade before 1900, the black population experienced a massive migration movement from the South that foreshadowed the great migration of the WWI era. Between 1890 and 1900 the black population in Philadelphia increased by 59% to 62,613. The 1900 U.S. census for Philadelphia shows that the black population at the turn of the century was predominately unmarried, with the majority of blacks between 20 and 44 years old with most renting their living space. Less than 12% of the black population was illiterate, but the vast majority of blacks for whom employment information was available in 1900 worked in domestic and personal service—some 26,646 of the 35,223 who were employed in Philadelphia. Another 4,727 worked in trade and transportation, and some 3,051 blacks worked in manufacturing. The bulk of the black population continued to live south of Chestnut Street and north of South Street between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, but a good part of the population was beginning as early as 1890 to settle to the north and west. A large concentration of blacks lived north of Vine and south of Montgomery between 7th and Broad Streets. Black communities were also growing on the opposite side of Broad Street east of the Schuylkill. Scattered enclaves of blacks were also emerging in Germantown, Frankford, and West Philadelphia south of Fairmount Park.

Ref.: The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia

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