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European migration and African American migration are both parts of New York City’s history. Throughout U.S. history, people who migrated to this country are in search of the American dream. The American dream meant something social groups within the US. New York offers a chance to analyze and understand the dream from the perspective of European migrants as well as African American refugees. For the African Americans that left the segregated Jim Crow South, the dream for them on a basic level was their recognition as a person in this country rather than three-fifths of a person. On the other hand, Europeans immigrants in the US were seeking greater economic opportunities as well as religious freedom. African Americans were also seeking greater economic opportunity due to the US’ systemic failures that never laid down a foundation for black people to strive economically.

In the 19th century, the United States was expanding rapidly to the west. Beginning in 1870 until 1920, twenty-five million Southern European immigrants moved to the US. Between 1910 and 1918, half a million African Americans moved from Jim Crow South to northern cities. These immigrants were in search of greater socioeconomic opportunities.  These immigrants came to discover one of the biggest lies in American history, the American Dream. The idea of a land with opportunities for each according to a person abilities or achievements have not been shown throughout American history. Once in the promised land, the US had systems created and established to undermine a person’s humanity. Anglo-Saxons had always been the top social class in the US and they viewed the new immigrants as a completely different entity. Whether it’s through predetermined social constructs, political systems or even through the standard of living, this promising dream will not become a reality for most who seek it. In the midst of American oppression, the dream for refugees or immigrants was in full control of the government. In the twentieth century, through peaceful or non-peaceful protest, minorities worked together to call for equality and social reforms.

This project will try to show the lives that the American dream offered immigrants after their initial move as well as the lives people created despite the different hardships they faced. Jacob August Riis, an immigrant photographer, published a book depicting how immigrants were surviving in New York City. He migrated from Denmark in 1870 as a 21-year-old, looking and hoping for a better life. With the help of flash photography, he was able to accurately depict the dangerous living conditions of immigrants living in theses overcrowded slums due to housing discrimination. He wanted to shed light on the many difficulties that “new immigrants” faced when coming to the US. In some way, Riis is the embodiment of the American dream. Immigrant children were also greatly affected by their parents’ socioeconomic status. This project will try to show the creative, yet dangerous measures children were taking to have fun.

The great economic gap between the upper and lower class and outright discrimination resulted in Americans living in extremely poor conditions. African Americans, who have been second-class citizens since the beginning of time in American history, started recreating their image in the 19th century. The Harlem Renaissance was a movement set forth by the need of African Americans to create a new image of themselves. They were shifting from the slave world into the New Negro. African Americans Migrated from the segregated South in need of refuge from percussion. The Southerners did not want them in their states as they created systems and laws meant to keep African Americans as second-class citizens forever. However, African Americans through the Harlem Renaissance were able to create art, music, a shift in culture as a well as a variety of scholarly work along most of the educational disciplines.