My paternal grandparents, Beatrice (Parker) and Eddie Walton Batchelor migrated from rural Georgia in 1917 to the growing industrial city of Detroit. This photo below was taken when they arrived at the train station in Detroit with their eldest child, my Aunt Mary, who understandably looks a little shell-shocked by all the change going on.
Before the move, my grandparents were sharecroppers, which was the economically devastating sequel to slavery. In sharecropping, you didn’t own the land you worked, a good portion of the crop went to pay your rent and the rest to pay for supplies you bought from the landowner.
In other words, Blacks in the South like my grandparents barely made enough to get by. Then my grandparents saw a flyer from some man up North named “Henry Ford” who promised a good paying job in his auto factory in Detroit making –
$5 a day.
That was enough incentive to say good-bye to the red dust and oppression of Jim Crow Georgia. Grandma and Grandpa got on a train, headed North and never looked back. And over the next few years, many of their relatives followed them to Michigan – and a better life.