Ulysses Moore : A Great Migration Story

The only thing Ulysses Moore could do was watch as his brand new bus was destroyed. Moore, a recently retired SEPTA worker, had been driving the 39 bus when nine white teenagers, equipped with baseball bats and hockey sticks, smashed the windows out of the bus after seeing a group of black kids board.

“I had the door closed so they couldn’t get in and they just tore the windows out,” said Moore. “Around the corner was the fire station – and we didn’t have telephones in the bus during that time – so I had to go to phone booth and call the police.”

For 76-year-old Moore, this was the only race driven crime he witnessed during the 30 years he worked for SEPTA. However, throughout his life the issue of race did pose as a more personal obstacle for Moore.

Moore was born in 1935, in a town called Goldsboro, North Carolina. Since he was a child, Moore dreamed of one day becoming a bus driver. However, due to the harsh Jim Crow laws of the South, Moore had little opportunity to fulfill his dream.

At 19 years old, Moore left his hometown and boarded a train to Philadelphia. Moore was not the only African-American during that time to make the journey from the South to the North. Between 1910 and 1970 over 7 million African-Americans relocated to the North so that they could escape the Jim Crow mentality of the South and better their conditions. This extreme exodus is commonly referred to as the Great Migration. By the time the migration ended in 1970, the social, cultural, political and economical condition of America had been greatly transformed.

Once in Philadelphia Moore lived with his brother, who had made the same journey years before. Since his arrival Moore has never been fired or out of work.

Just one day after moving to Philadelphia, Moore received a position as a sheet metal worker, where he worked for 15 years. He then later attended the Spring Garden Institute and received a job as a machinist. It wasn’t until Mr. Moore was 34 years old that a friend of his suggested he apply to SEPTA.

For 15 years, Moore drove over 8 different bus routes throughout the Philadelphia area. Despite having to wake up every morning at 4:30 for his 5:00 A.M. shift, Moore couldn’t have felt prouder that he was finally able to make his dream a reality. (Click Here for slide show on Moore’s life as SEPTA Bus Driver)

“I had always wanted to be a bus driver and I loved it. It wasn’t no headache to me at all,” said Moore. “I’ve never been late, never been suspended, never got no warning about nothing. 30 years with a clean record.”

Although Moore believes his life in Philadelphia was pleasant, he admits he has seen a change in the values of the younger generations. When his son was only 14 years old, Moore found out he was in a gang.

“They called him T-Bird and written on a wall around the corner of my house I saw the name T-Bird. So, that’s how I found out,” said Moore. “First this I did was I made him go down there and wash that off the wall.”

Moore also notices a dramatic difference in the education system today and how generations today fail to recognize the importance and the value in receiving proper schooling.

“It’s all together different. There was no violence like there is now. When I went to school everyone was interested in trying to learning something. Kids now go there for like a play thing,” said Moore.

For many people today, the Great Migration may seem like a minor period in American History. However, Moore’s story along with those like him, is proof that the migration was a period in which people strived to better not only their own condition but the condition of the United States as a whole.

Exploring the Life of Ulysses Moore:

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Plan for Senior Interview

     On March 14th we will be meeting Mr. Ulysses Moore for the first time. As we conduct research for our Great Migration Project we will be heavily relying on Mr. Moore to provide an in depth look at his migration story from beginning to end. Therefore, it is essential that we be sure to make Mr. Moore feel comfortable indulging this kind of information to us. We will begin by first introducing ourselves to Mr. Moore and telling him some information about ourselves, such as where we are from, what we are studying, and a basic general history of our lives. Since, Mr. Moore will be telling us so much about his life, we feel he should be given a glimpse into our own as a sign of trust and friendship. Hopefully, this will make him feel more comfortable during our interview. Then, we will explain the Great Migration Project to Mr. Moore so that he will fully understand the purpose of this assignment. We will also explain why we feel his story is crucial. We will tell Mr. Moore that his story is timeless and that it will give immense personal insight into a major event in American History. Mr. Moore’s story will be able to offer our viewers a human side to this event, a side that history books cannot express.

      Upon our initial meeting we will explain to Mr. Moore that since we want to capture his story from beginning to end the interview will be conducted and filmed over the course of three interviewing sessions. We will also provided him with a list of topics we hope to discuss with him each week. This way Mr. Moore will be given ample amount of time to think about each topic prior to the set interviews.

      Our topics will include be discussed on the following dates:

      March 21st: Family History, Early Childhood, Slavery and Life in the South

      Questions will include: Can you tell us where in Africa your family originated from? Where in the South did you live? What type of community was it? What are the first memories you have of your mother and father? What were some highlights of your childhood? What was your relationship with your parents and siblings like? What were some of the difficulties growing up in the South? Do you remain close to any childhood friends? How did slavery and segregation affect your relationship with your family and community? What are some of your fondest childhood memories and what made them so special?

      March 28th: Events Leading up to the Move, Hopes and Expectations for Life in the North, Reality of Life in the North.

            Questions will include: When did you and your family first start to explore the idea of leaving the South? Could you explain to us the series of events which caused you and your family to reach a decision? Was there one particular incident that swayed your decision? Did your family stay together, or did they move to various locations? Were there other African American families in your community who decided to leave? What were you hoping to get out of life in the North? What did you expect it to be like? Were you scared/excited/anxious? Were you welcomed? Was Philadelphia your primary destination? Why or why not? What were your parents’ occupations? What was your first job in Philadelphia and how long did you work there?

      April 4th: Reflections on the Migration and How it has Shaped Society Today.

          Questions will include: Do you have any regrets about leaving the South? What do you miss the most? Are you in contact with any neighbors, relatives, or close friends from the South? Have you returned? If not, would you return? How has Philadelphia changed since the time you first moved here? Has it changed for the better or the worse? What is your favorite aspect of Philadelphia? If you could change anything about your neighborhood, what would it be?

      We hope that these questions will allow Mr. Moore to reflect on his story and provide compelling information. We will be sure to speak as loudly and clearly as possible during our initial meetings and interviewing sessions. While our intent is for Mr. Moore to answer our primary questions, we will patiently wait out any digressions and tangents in our conversation (they may be of great benefit). We want to be sure that Mr. Moore will be comfortable and not be placed in a position where he will constantly have to ask us to repeat the questions. During our interviewing sessions Claire will be acting at the main interviewer and Kevin will shoot the video and take still photography.


The Great Migration

In 1910, the majority of the African American population in North America lived in the rural South. However, by 1970, around 90% of the population lived in urban areas throughout the North. This extreme exodus of nearly 7 million African American between is commonly referred to as “The Great Migration.” The reallocation, which took place in and around the two world wars, drastically changed the social, cultural, political and economical condition of America.

The Great Migration is generally considered to have taken place in two waves. The first wave took place between 1910 and 1940. Approximately 1.5 million black Americans left the South for the northern cities, according to Townsand Price-Sparlen’s article “Urban Destination Selection Among African Americans during the 1950s Great Migration.” This wave of the migration began as a result of a drastic unemployment in the South. During this time thousands of African Americans living in the South were left unemployed due to the invasion of the boll weevil, a tiny insect that caused intense agricultural problems. Meanwhile in the North, the war caused a decrease in the immigration of European industrial workers. Thus, labor sectors such as meatpacking, coal, railroad, and war industries were tentatively open to African Americans and provided higher wages.

The second wave of the migration occurred from 1940 to 1970. During this thirty year span, over 5 million African Americans moved from the South to a wider variety of destinations, according to Price-Sparlen. Although the invention of the mechanical cotton picker played a hand in this migration, it was the many social and political changes that spurred most blacks to move North. In the 1950s there was heightened racial tensions within the South. For many Southern African Americans, the North offered greater hopes for securing both economic and political rights. As a result, many blacks began to view the North was as a land of opportunities.

However, in both waves of the migration, the decision to leave did not come easily. The journey itself was long, crowded, and expensive. Family’s were often forced to separate, leaving the South at different periods. Although life in the North was uncertain for many black migrants the hopes of obtaining freedom, opportunity, and independence were worth the gamble. “And your leaders will tell you the South is the best place for you. Turn a deaf ear to the scoundrel, and let him stay,” advised an editorial in Robert Abbott’s Chicago Defender.

Throughout both waves of the migration, the cities receiving these migrants faced a number of challenges in areas such as housing, transportation and employment. Philadelphia was a dominant destination for many black migrants. Many came to take advantage of Philadelphia’s post-war job opportunities in textile factories, ship yards and textile factories, according to Steven A. Reich’s introduction to the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration. However, like other major cities, black migrants were placed in segregated communities and experienced crowded housing and living conditions. Although life in the North was not easy, it provided a new beginning for many black migrants.

Robert Abbott, Founder of the Chicago Defender. Photo source http://www.lib.niu.edu/1996/iht329633.html


Voices of Germantown

Since its founding in 1683 Germantown has faced and has overcome a number of social challenges.  Today, residents of Germantown continue to confront such challenges in the hopes of bettering the community. Here, residents reveal that crime is a central issue threatening the neighborhood.


Germantown: Images of hope

“Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” – Walker Evans.

(This photo was taken on Jan 30th 2011 in Germantown on E. Armat Street. 600 by 800 pixels)

(This photo was taken on Jan 30th 2011 on Greene Street. 600 by 450 pixels.)

(This photo was taken on Jan 30th 2011 on Germantown Avenue. 500 by 375 pixels)

(This photo was taken on Jan 30th 2011 on Germantown Avenue. 600 by 800 pixels.)

All photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix Digital camera.