Cover image for The Great Migration : journey to the North
The Great Migration : journey to the North

1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperCollins Children's Books, c2011.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
600 L Lexile
Added Author:
Illuminates the experiences of families who left their homes in search of better lives during the move up north.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book J 811.54 GRE 1 1
Book J 811.54 GRE 1 1
Book J 811.54 GRE 1 1

On Order



We were one family among the many thousands. Mama and Daddy leaving home, coming to the city, with their hopes and their courage, their dreams and their children, to make a better life.

When Eloise Greenfield was four months old, her family moved from their home in Parmele, North Carolina, to Washington, D.C. Before Jan Spivey Gilchrist was born, her mother moved from Arkansas and her father moved from Mississippi. Both settled in Chicago, Illinois. Though none of them knew it at the time, they had all become part of the Great Migration.

In this collection of poems and collage artwork, award winners Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist gracefully depict the experiences of families like their own, who found the courage to leave their homes behind during The Great Migration and make new lives for themselves elsewhere. The Great Migration concludes with a bibliography.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Author Notes

Eloise Greenfield was born in Parmele, North Carolina, on May 17, 1929. While she was still an infant, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she has lived ever since. Ms. Greenfield studied piano as a child and teenager, before getting a full time civil service job. Her decision to write came from a lack of books on African Americans. There were far too few books that told the truth about African-American people. Ms. Greenfield wanted to change that.

Greenfield has received many honors for her work, including the 1990 Recognition of Merit Award presented by the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books in Claremont, California for Honey, I Love; and an honorary degree from Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to writing herself, Eloise Greenfield has found time to work with other writers. She headed the Adult Fiction and Children's Literature divisions of the D.C. Black Writers' Workshop (now defunct), a group whose goal was to encourage the writing and publishing of Africa-American literature. She has given free workshops on the writing of African-American literature for children, and, under grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, has taught creative writing to elementary and junior high school students. Ms. Greenfield is also a member of the African-American Writers Guild.

Greenfield has also received the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, given by the National Council of Teachers of English. In 1999 she became a member of the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. She has received the Coretta Scott King Award for Africa Dream, the Carter G. Woodson Award for Rosa Parks, and the Irma Simonton Black Award for She Come Bringing Me That Little Baby Girl. For many of her books, she has received Notable Book citations from the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Council for the Social Studies. Ms. Greenfield has received, for the body of her work, the 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award from Moonstone, Inc., Philadelphia; and the 1993 Children's Literature and Social Responsibility Award from the Boston Educators for Social Responsibility.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Frequent collaborators Greenfield and Gilchrist (Brothers & Sisters: Family Poems) shape an evocative portrait of African-Americans who moved North during the Great Migration between 1915 and 1930 to escape Ku Klux Klan-fueled racism and to secure better lives. In forceful free verse, travelers bid farewell to what they've known. One man is conflicted about leaving his rural home ("Saying goodbye to the land puts a pain on my heart"), a woman can't wait to get away ("Goodbye, crazy signs, telling me where I can go, what I can do"), and a girl prepares to leave her mother ("I'm a little scared. I'm a lot scared. Off to the big city by myself, with just the church up there to lean on"). Chronicling the journey by train, lilting poetry and pictures capture a sense of both apprehension and hope: "Going to make it. No matter what." Making intriguing use of photographs of people, news headlines, maps, and painted elements, each of Gilchrist's collages has a distinctive look and lighting, ranging from conventional portraits of the travelers to more abstract images. Ages 3-8. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Following an informative introduction (which includes a note about Greenfield's own family's move North in 1929), poignant poems tell the story of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the promise of a better life in the cities of the North. Many of the poems give voice to unnamed travelers' thoughts; Greenfield explores the heart of each person, from the young woman going North alone, who sees her mother secretly packing her teddy bear in her bag, to the angry woman who says, 'I can't wait to get away. . .I hear that train whistling / my name. Don't worry, train, / I'm ready. When you pull / into the station, my bags and I / will be there.' Strong, proud people look directly at the reader in most spreads. Cut paper, ephemera, paint, and processed photographs create collages, adding the right air of seriousness and history to the poetry. An illustrator's note would have helped identify the media used, which varies, sometimes dramatically, from spread to spread. Details in the art effortlessly remind the reader of the time period: maps, cars, trains, porters, lunch boxes, and crowded stations all played a role in moving African Americans away from the Jim Crow South and toward the promise of the North and a better life. Adults may want to pair this with books about other times where folks left their families and homes -- the Dust Bowl, wars, emigration, and the Underground Railroad -- connecting it to the larger themes of history. ROBIN L. SMITH (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Between 1915 and 1930, more than a million African Americans left their homes in the South and moved to the North, says Greenfield in an introduction to this stirring collection of poems that honors those who took part in the Great Migration, including the poet herself. Each spread looks at a different stage in the journey, beginning with the uprooting: Saying goodbye to the land / puts a pain on my heart, says a farmer. The beat in Greenfield's free-verse poetry amplifies the feeling of momentum, from the way news travels They thought about it, talked about it, / spread the word to the rhythm of the train that is felt even in the northbound passengers' questions, Will I make a good life / for my family, / for myself? / The wheels are singing, / Yes, you will, / you will, you will!' / I hope they're right. / I think they're right. / I know they're right. Greatly enhancing the impact of the words, Gilchrist's moving mixed-media collages layer drawings, maps, and color-washed archival images that have the slightly distorted look of photocopies, giving some of the figures an almost ghostly, translucent appearance. Together, the immediate words, striking images, and Greenfield's personal story create a powerful, haunting view of a pivotal moment in U.S. history even as they show the universal challenges of leaving home behind and starting a new life. A bibliography concludes.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 8-In eloquent verse, Greenfield narrates the story of the migration during the years 1915-1930 of more than a million African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North in search of opportunity, employment, and fair treatment. The poems are arranged under five headings that represent the stages of the journey: "The News," "Goodbyes," "The Trip," "Question," and "Up North." Feelings of fear and apprehension resonate in the poetry, in the sad and hopeful voices of the men, women, and children who gave up all they knew and embarked on an unknown future. Simple words declare their reasons for going with quiet dignity, "Goodbye crazy signs, telling me/where I can go, what I can do," and share the immense pain of leaving. "Mama's making me go./She wants me to be happy/and safe. But I see the sadness/lying deep in her eyes." Gilchrist's illustrations gracefully complement the poetry; mixed-media collages incorporating line drawings, muted watercolor washes, newsprint clippings, photos, and sepia-toned illustrations depict warm family representations as well as stark desperation and anger. Greenfield's lyricism and her clear, narrative style make this book a solid choice for independent reading and for reading aloud. The Great Migration: An American Story (HarperCollins, 1993), illustrated with Jacob Lawrence's bold and moving paintings and including a verse by Walter Dean Myers, also portrays this historical event and can be used in conjunction with Migration.-Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.