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Migration Train

An informative journey from Africa to the United States, the Migration Train expands on the different locations mentioned in Harlem.

Africa | West Indies | North America

Republic of Ghana
| Republic of Mali | Republic of Senegal
Goree Island, Senegal
| Niger River
[Map of Africa.]

Republic of Ghana
Ghana is located on the West African coastline. Rich in raw materials, such as gold, cocoa, timber, manganese, and diamonds, it attracted Europeans in the 1400's. Ghana's history dates back some 40,000 years but not until the Portuguese search for gold was any history documented. Ghana was part of the infamous Gold Coast, and a major part of the European Slave Trade. Dutch, British, and Danish slave traders established many forts along the coastline of Ghana. When the slave trade was abolished in the mid-1800s, there were some 76 forts dotting the coast. Britain remained a heavy force in Ghana controlling most of the Gold Coast and maintaining the forts as trading posts. In 1873, the Ashanti, the native people of Ghana, refused to surrender their capital of Kumasi and war broke out between Britain and the Ashanti. The war lasted some twenty years, ending with a British victory and the city of Kumasi in ruins.

Ghana was the first African nation to win its independence in 1957. Today this 92,100 square mile nation has a population of 17.7 million. Two thirds of the population live on small rural farms. English is the official language, with French and nine African dialects recognized by the government. The capitol city is Accra.

Republic of Mali
Mali is the legendary city of Timbuktu. It's history dates back into the 13th century with the Mandinka people, who controlled all of the Trans-Continental trade of gold and salt. This 478,841 square mile area is the least populated country in Africa. One-third of the country lies within the Sahara Dessert. In 1883, Mali became a French colony and remained under French control until 1960. Mali is broken up into eight regions- Gao, Kayes, Kindal, Koulkoro, Mopti, Segou, Sikasso, and Tombouetou. French is the official language of the country, with Bambara and other African languages spoken. The capitol city is Bamako.

Republic of Senegal
Senegal is the western most Republic on the West Coast of Africa. Some 75,955 square miles, the Tukulor people settled this area before the 10th century. In 1444, the Portuguese reached Senegal shortly followed by the Dutch, British, and French. The French established trading posts in 1638 and Senegal became a major port of the European Slave Trade. Control of Senegal seesawed between France and Britain from 1693-1814, some 121 years. Senegal remained part of the French community until 1960 when it declared its independence.

Goree Island, Senegal
Portuguese sailors established Goree Island, located off the coast of Senegal, in 1488 as a port of call on route to Asia. Originally named Palma it became a major intersection of several of the Atlantic ship routes. In 1588, the Dutch took control of the island, renaming it Goede Reede (Good Harbor). The mispronunciation of Goede Reede over the years gave the island the name of Goree. Approximately only 2.5 miles off the coast of Senegal and protected by Cape Verde peninsula, Goree Island became the key to controlling trade in and out of Senegal. The trading of hides, gum, ostrich feathers, wax, gold, and the most profitable-slaves, made it a much desired land possession. It is believed that more than 2/3 of the slaves heading to the West Indies and North America passed through Goree Island before 1600. It is estimated that between the year 1500 and 1800 more than 20 million men, women, and children, entered Masion des Eslaves (Slaves' House) never to return to their home land.

Niger River
The Niger River is the third longest river in Africa after the Nile and the Congo. It runs 2,600 miles and is a source of irrigation and hydroelectric power for many African villages. The Niger runs through Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.


West Indies
[Map of Trinidad and Tobago.]

A part of the island group, The West Indies, Trinidad is a 1,980 square mile island off the coast of Venezuela that was sited by Christopher Columbus in 1498. Columbus named the island La Isla de la Trinidad for the three mountain peaks that were visible from his ship. The first European settlement, San Joesf, was established in 1592, which is now the modern day capital, Port of Spain. The Spanish enslaved the Arawaks, the native people of the island and claimed Trinidad as a Spanish Colony until 1797 when Spain conceded the island to Great Britain. The island was a part of the slave trade until 1838 when Great Britain abolished slavery.


North America
| Waycross, Georgia | Illinois (East St. Louis)
Mississippi (Holly Springs) | Tennessee (Memphis)
Alabama (Gee's Bend)
| New York
[Map of the United States.]

Georgia, named after King George II, is the largest state east of the Mississippi River with a land area of 58,910 square miles and a population of 6,508,419, 27% are African Americans. The capital city of Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities in the south. Nicknamed the Empire State of the South, Georgia history is long and rich. Originally inhabited by the Cherokee and Creek Indians until 1540 when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, in search of spices and gold, came across the area. Georgia was settled in 1733 for Britian by James Oglethorpe. It was the last of the thirteen original colonies, established as a buffer state between the Spanish colony, of what we now call Florida, and South Carolina. The only colony to be named after a king, Georgia was a penal colony for debtors and indentured servants. Georgia originally had placed a ban on the use of slave labor, but sickness, and competition with the larger plantations of South Carolina, forced the colony to lift the ban in order to keep settlers in the colony. On January 2, 1788, Georgia became the forth state to ratify the Constitution of the United States and it developed a large plantation culture. Threatened by the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1861, Georgia voted to secede from the Union. Georgia was devastated by the Civil War, primarily because of General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea. Sherman made his way from New Orleans, Louisiana to Savannah, Georgia, leaving nothing but ashes in his wake. Georgia recovered slowly from the war and was readmitted into the Union on July 15, 1870.

Atlanta, Georgia is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and has become known as the heart of the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

Waycross, Georgia
Waycorss is located southwest of Savannah, Georgia, and is known as the "gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp." This large tobacco community, founded in 1872, was a hub for stagecoach and railroad crossings in the south.

Illinois (East St. Louis)
Illinois has a history that dates back to the settlement of Native Americans, know as the Mound Builders. Europeans came to the area in the late 1600's and found many Native Americans living in the region. The Illinois, the largest group of Native Americans in Illinois, consisted of a loose confederation of Algonquian-speaking tribes were driven from the region by invading Native Americans from the north... In 1717, the Prairie State was part of the French province of Louisiana and then surrendered to the British in 1763. In 1858, when the country was heavily involved in the issue of slavery, Illinois was the location for many of the debates between Abraham Lincoln (anti-slavery) and Stephen A. Douglas (pro-slavery). Illinois' largest city, Chicago, was a destination of many African Americans of the south. This ever-expanding city offered jobs and opportunities for many African Americans, which did not exist in the South.

Mississippi (Holly Springs)
Mississippi became the 20th State on December 20, 1817. The "Magnolia State" was originally settled by three major Native American Tribes; the Chickasaw to the north, the Choctaw in the south and central regions, and the Natchez in the southern delta. Between 1763 and 1812, Britain acquired the Mississippi Territory, in sections. In 1830 Mississippi became one of the wealthiest states because of cheap land, high cotton prices, and easy credit. Like much of the South, Mississippi had a long road to recovery after re-admittance into the Union in 1870. Until 1940, African Americans made up the majority living in the state. Among some of the more well known people of Mississippi were social reformers, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862-1931) of Holly Springs and James Meredith (1933-) of Kosciusko.

Tennessee (Memphis)
Tennessee originally was home to three major Native American Tribes, the Shawnee in the south, the Chickasaw in the west, and the Cherokee in the east. Receiving its name from the Cherokee word Tanasi, Tennessee was part of the original frontier. During the 1830's all of the Native Americans were driven from their homes and forced to settle in the Oklahoma Territory. The Cherokee refer to this incident as the Trail of Tears. Nicknamed the Volunteer State, because of the great number of volunteers during the War of 1812, Tennessee was the last state in the Union to secede on June 8, 1861. Second only to Virginia, Tennessee was witness to more Civil War battles than any other state. Tennessee was readmitted into the Union one year after it emancipated its slaves.

Though not the capital, Memphis, overlooking the Mississippi River, is the largest city in the state of Tennessee. Named after the African City, located on the Nile River, Memphis is known as the birthplace of the Blues. Beale Street, in the heart of downtown Memphis, is infamous for blues and jazz clubs. In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was in Memphis for a sanitation worker's strike, was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel.

Alabama (Gee's Bend)
The first permanent European settlement in Alabama was the French settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile in 1702. In 1719 the first ship of Africans who were to be sold as slaves, arrived in Alabama. These men and women were brought to clear the land for rice and indigo. France turned over control of the land to Britain as a result of the French and Indian War in 1763. Alabama became the 22nd State in 1819, and rapidly developed into one of the wealthiest states in the Union, dominated by the large plantation owners. Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861 and became the heart of the Confederacy. It was, however, soon occupied for much of the war by the Union forces. After the conclusion of the war, Alabama refused to ratify the 14th amendment and was placed under military rule until 1868. In the 1900s, Alabama became the focus for much of the Civil Rights Movement. "The setting for the major civil rights controversy of the 1930s was Scottsboro, where some black youths were improperly charged, tried, and sentenced to death (see Scottsboro Case ). In the 1960s bloody street confrontations darkened Alabama's image, both nationally and internationally. The civil rights movement was centered on Birmingham after television showed peaceful demonstrators-many of them schoolchildren --under attack by fire hoses and police dogs in April 1963. The attempts to integrate the University of Alabama were also televised. Off-and-on violence between mobs and Birmingham police sparked demonstrations across the country. In September four African American children of Birmingham died in the bombing of their Baptist church and, in isolated street incidents, two African American children were shot to death. Other killings were related to freedom walks and voter-registration drives. Nevertheless, the courage of Alabama' s African American activists and the determination of Reverend King's followers in Alabama cities were instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

New York
New York State was claimed by the explorer Henry Hudson in 1609 on behalf of the Dutch East Indian Company and named New Netherlands. The island of Manhattan was bought from the Wappinger Confederation of Native Americans for twenty-four dollars and established as a major trading post. In 1664, England took control of New Netherlands and renamed the area, New York after King George II's brother, the Duke of York. During the American Revolution, New York was a major contributor to the protests against the British Crown. It became the 11th State of the Union on July 26, 1788. Today New York is home to some 18,175,000 people. New York City, is the leading city in the United States in population, industry, financing, publishing, fashion, and home of the United Nations, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building. New York City is made up of five boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan. The Isle of Manhattan is home to Harlem, which is located north of 96th Street and joins up with the area of Manhattan known as Washington Heights.

Learn more about Harlem:

The University of Michigan's Harlem Webpage
The School of Information, University of Michigan and the Cultural Heritage Initiatives for Community Outreach takes a look at Harlem between 1900 and 1940

A new model for teaching, encouraging, and helping students to build an online library of educational materials

Related ArtsEdge Resources on the Harlem Renaissance
A fellow Kennedy Center Education Department program with the assistance of the Teacher's Advisory Council and other professional educators has developed an informational site for teachers and students on the Harlem Rennaissance

[Image from Harlem.]