Make Black History Personal: #2 Migrating Up North for a Better Life

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.

My paternal grandparents at the train station in Detroit.

My paternal grandparents at the train station in Detroit.

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.

News story on Henry Ford's flyer offering work in the auto factory.

News story on Henry Ford’s flyer offering work in the auto factory.

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.

How can you make Black history personal?

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Karen Batchelor About Karen Batchelor

Karen Batchelor is a genealogist and founder of where she blogs about more than three decades of climbing her family tree. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.


2 Responses to “Make Black History Personal: #2 Migrating Up North for a Better Life”
  1. Pat Quintero says:

    Read the background on Ford’s employment restrictions. Never heard those before. Smacks of Ross Perot’s practices when he owned EDS – prior to selling to General Motors.

    My parents(followed by all her siblings) came here from KY for the same reasons. NOTE: Before my Mom died, I taped her (oral histories). Got some
    wonderful insights – so much I never would have known.

    Won’t get anything done tonight other than reading your words Karen. What an
    educator you are!!

    • Karen says:

      Pat –

      Thanks for reading my stories here on Extreme Ancestry. Sound like you’ve got some great family history to share too! We’ll have to compare notes.


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