Montreal’s migration of Black people was very different than the USA and even the rest of Canada. Montreal had a relatively small black community in comparison to other parts of Canada and of course United States. Although Blacks migrated to Montreal as early as the days of New France, the period of the Black Empire Loyalists, and the Underground railway, the biggest migration to Montreal was between 1897 – 1930 which is right at the heart of the great depression.
The situation was different in the USA which had a history of many Negroes free and slaves mingled through their early history onward.
Authors note: In Montreal people of African decent are referred to as Blacks, in the USA they are most commonly known and African Americans.
The Great Migration 1915 – 1930 – In America
The Great Migration of 1915 – l930 refers to the period when African Americans from the south flocked to big northern cities to find work. This migration in turn, would provide an income for an African American northern innkeeper who needed a job to feed her own family.
Many of these women had so many borders in their own home to help pay their rent that it was to the point that their homes could be considered hotels. Many of these women not only co-coordinated lodgings, meals, and so on in the boarding houses, but worked making flower arrangements and lampshades to further supplement their income.
African American women also opened stores and restaurants usually out of their own homes to make an income, which was referred to as “depression businesses.” African American women had no choice but to be innovative in their ways of seeking an income. Many traditional businesses during the depression era had a “whites only policy” which they openly advertised when posting a job.
The Philadelphia Employment bureau processed 68% of these white only jobs adverts between 1932 and 1933. No one really knew the exact number of homeless black women because the society concentrated on the need of the white population. What is known is that the black community, churches, and organizations were overwhelmed with the demand.
The demand for a shelter or bed for women in general rose by 270% in 1930.
To be continued
Concordia University University has a wonderful women’s studies program for Montrealers