The African American Family Album
1995, Oxford University Press
Excerpt from The African American Family Album:
African Americans are the only group whose ancestors were brought to the United States against their will, as slaves. However, millions of them made a journey like other immigrants when they decided to leave the harsh conditions of the South and come North or West seeking greater opportunities. This movement, called The Great Migration, brought the Robinson family to California in the 1920s. Jackie Robinson, the first African American to break the color barrier in baseball’s major leagues, remembered why his mother was determined to move her family.
“My mother is a religious woman. She had no formal education, but she possessed the wisdom to perceive that times were changing. And she was gifted with the courage to speak out in defense of her beliefs….She knew that we [her five children] could receive a superior education only in that part of the United States that was not corrupted by memories of the days when Negroes had been on a par with domestic animals.
“To move away from the South required money, and to accumulate money was not easy. My parents labored from dawn to dark on the white man’s land, then saw the products of their toil snatched from them. The plantation owner gave them a few dollars for the necessities of life, then took the dollars away by overpricing the goods they were forced to buy at his general store. Only by the greatest thrift could my mother save enough…to buy train tickets to California for her children and herself….Our destination was Pasadena, where my mother’s brother, Burton, worked as a gardener….She went into the open labor market for work as a domestic. We children seldom saw her during the day; she was gone before we were up and did not return until we were in bed. She was hands caressing us or a voice in our sleep.”
Parents’ Choice Award
Selected for the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen-Age