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Posted: November 24th, 2022


How the Great Migration Shaped African American Churches?
What was the impact of the Great Migration on African American churches?




What was the impact of the Great Migration on African American churches?

Between 1916 and 1970, more than six million African Americans moved from rural areas in the southern United States to urban areas in the northern United States, a period known as the Great Migration. African Americans relocated to the northern areas as a result of the freedom they had gained from enslavement and the ability to obtain fair wages for their labor. When these eager African Americans were granted their freedom, they made their way to New York City, among other places (Milton, C Sernett, 1999). They brought their way of life with them, which resulted in numerous changes in the existing churches in the North, as the majority of them became their new homes as a result (Robert L. Boyd, 1998). As a result, the impact of this group on the churches in the North will be the primary focus of our discussions during this work. Churches serving African Americans have experienced a shift in the spirit and style of worship. The way they danced and how they incorporated their songs signaled the beginning of a new form of Negro Spiritual worship. Their worship was more animated than what they had expected because they were overjoyed at having gained their independence from the British (Milton, C Sernett, 1999). Contemporary worship was a good starting point for the churches because the same vibrant worship is experienced in a more contemporary way than traditional worship. Following the Great Migration, African Americans established a greater number of churches. The churches became the first place of refuge for this homeless population, but they were unable to provide for all of them. In their search for new residences, they were forced to build additional churches in the areas where they had settled as a community. The Church Census, which was conducted in 1890 and 1900, revealed a significant increase in the number of churches as a result of the migration (Carter Woodson, 1921). The census officials came to this conclusion because the various churches discovered were Negros with newly introduced ministers who supported their worship as it was practiced in the south, as reported by the census officials. Aside from that, they introduced a religious tradition that was traditional, emotional, and intimate into the northern churches. The people of the North lived decent lives, and as a result, their religious practices were holistic, integrative, and experimental. In slavery, African Americans endured a great deal of hardship during the reign of Jim Crow. While there, they were weaned and only exposed to the most primitive religious ideologies. Once they had settled in the North, they continued to practice their traditional religion, bringing about significant changes in the way the churches were organized and operated (Milton, C Sernett, 1999). They also engaged in emotional and intimate worship as a result of the torture they had endured while serving as slaves. It was the churches in the North that established mission homes, schools, and charitable programs that are still in operation today. The mission homes provided assistance to Negros who were without means of subsistence; their children began attending schools affiliated with the churches out of fear of being discriminated against. Charitable programs were established to assist the less fortunate Negros in receiving assistance from the churches (Carter Woodson, 1921). There were also numerous Christian branches that arose, including the United American Freewill Baptist Church, the colored Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and the Colored Primitive Baptists in America church, to name a few. The Great Migration, in its entirety, brought about a great deal of change in both the existing and newly established churches in the Northern hemisphere. Changes in worship, the introduction of a primitive form of worship, the establishment of an increasing number of churches, mission homes and schools, and the expansion of Christian church branches are just a few examples of the changes. The majority of the modifications are still visible today.


Carter Woodson, (1921). The History of the Negro Church, The Associated Publishers: Washington D.C.

Milton, C Sernett, (1999): “Bound for the Promised Land: African American Religion and the Great Migration” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 67 No. 3, 709-711

Robert L. Boyd, (1998). The storefront church ministry in African American communities of the urban North during the great migration: The making of an ethnic niche, The Social Science Journal, Volume 35, Issue 3, Pages 319-332, ISSN 0362-3319,

Greene-Hayes, Ahmad. “Black Church Rumor: Sexual Violence and Black (Gay) Gospel’s Reverend James Cleveland.” GLQ 28, no. 1 (2022): 115-143.

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