The Final Product

After about a month of interviews, scripting and editing, my group has completed our project on The Great Migration.

First up: the short documentary. Mrs. Inel Jefferson provided us with her memories and Kyla, Vinny, and myself have captured them on film. Below is the end result.

As an active member of Germantown’s community, Mrs. Jefferson drives to where she needs to go. Below is a slide show with narration, which details this aspect of Mrs. Jefferson’s life.

If video-watching isn’t your style, I’ve written a blog post about Mrs. Jefferson’s life:

Mrs. James Inel Jefferson, a petite woman in a polka dotted shirt and a pair of flashy pearl earrings, wrung her aged hands as her mind revisited memories from over 90 years ago. It didn’t take long for Mrs. Jefferson to conjure up images of her father’s tobacco and peanut farms where many of her childhood memories take place.

Those farms in Mrs. Jefferson’s memory are in Ahoski, N.C., where she lived with her family until she was five years old. In 1920, Mrs. Jefferson’s father grew tired of farming and relocated the family to Philadelphia, Pa.

The move the Jefferson family made from the South to the North occurred at the beginnings of The Great Migration when a surge of Southern Blacks moved to escape racism and seek employment in the industrious cities of the North.

Mrs. Jefferson’s family is of French and Cherokee heritage, and though Mrs. Jefferson does not consider herself a part of The Great Migration, her life’s story contains elements that parallel what the African American community experienced during this crucial time in America’s history.

After moving to Philadelphia, Mrs. Jefferson was enrolled in public school. She lived in a diverse section of West Philadelphia, and rarely was a victim of the racial divide because her family had white or very light brown skin.

Mrs. Jefferson today

Young Mrs. Jefferson was happy to be living in a city buzzing with life, and soon after graduating high school, Mrs. Jefferson married her first husband and had her son.

The couple was married for ten years before their divorce. Later, Mrs. Jefferson married her second husband, and they remained married for 50 years until his passing.

Though Mrs. Jefferson was not black, her tan skin tone may have inspired an act of racism against her and her second husband while on vacation.

While on a bus, four white military men told Mrs. Jefferson and her Black husband to sit in the seats in the back. Mrs. Jefferson responded that if there were seats in the back that the military men should sit there instead.

The military men remained standing next to the Jeffersons, but Mrs. Jefferson refused to change her seat. The men eventually grew tired and left the Jeffersons alone.

This anecdote is an example of the segregation that minorities faced during the middle of the twentieth century. Social segregation remained despite the abolition of legal segregation, as explained in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

Mrs. Jefferson was an avid bowler in her adult years. She participated bowling leagues and earned many trophies for her talents.

Mrs. Jefferson grew old with her second husband in Philadelphia. The couple owned and oversaw various properties around the city.

Mrs. Jefferson currently lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. She volunteers at Center in the Park almost everyday; its her way of giving back to the city she’s called home for so long.

Mrs. Jefferson at Center in the Park.

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Mission Statement

After three weeks of interviews with Mrs. Jefferson, we have gathered numerous anecdotes from her life. This Mission Statement will help narrow our focus as we begin to take steps toward editing down the hours of footage into a cohesive 3-5 minute video project.

Mission: Our intention is to tell the story of The Great Migration through the unique experiences of Mrs. Jefferson. The story will be enriched with the colorful anecdotes about religion, family, and tradition.

Goals: We want to show how Mrs. Jefferson’s story gives a new perspective on The Great Migration, in the sense that not only African Americans were affected by it. We want the audience to realize that this movement was extremely pervasive in its effects on the lives of those involved, as evidenced by Mrs. Jefferson’s many stories. Mrs. Jefferson has lived a long and fruitful life, and we want to share her story with the world.

Organization: We plan to weave together Mrs. Jefferson’s anecdotes with voice-over narration to give context and historical background to her commentary on The Great Migration. We are going to separate the clips by theme and incorporate still photos, as well.  When the final version of the video is posted on our blogs, there will be accompanying Soundslides to highlight various elements of Mrs. Jefferson’s life. Each group member will develop a Soundslide independently; one will cover Mrs. Jefferson’s family history, another will cover Mrs. Jefferson’s driving, and a third will cover Mrs. Jefferson’s time at Center In The Park.

Background on The Great Migration

The early part of the twentieth century gave birth to some of America’s most significant triumphs and struggles. Two world wars brought America to the forefront of global politics, the Great Depression lead to an overhaul of governmental policies, and the introduction of technologies such as the automobile lead to a more mobile society.

As all of these innovations and changes made headlines, America’s Black community was undergoing a drastic change of their own. Lasting from 1915 to 1970, historians estimate that around 6 million southern Blacks migrated north and west; this sweeping movement is known as The Great Migration.

The causes of this movement cannot be traced back to a singular force. According to the author of “The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations,” Ira Berlin, “During the last decades of the nineteenth century, rights were lost, freedoms shriveled, and opportunities dwindled.” Historians note that both push and pull factors influenced the southern Black communities to settle in the north.

Some reasons for uprooting include the mechanization of the agricultural industry, the Jim Crowe Laws that legalized segregation in the South, and the opportunity for work, especially in the industrial Northern cities.

Though moving to Northern cities such as New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston, helped Blacks escape the struggles and injustices of the South, Blacks faced new challenges as they were forced to quickly adapt to their new lives.

One widespread problem was finding room for the sudden surge of people. Isabel Wilkerson writes in her Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” that northern cities “strained under the weight of millions of black southerners trying to situate themselves.”

In addition, the largely uneducated Blacks were forced to take menial jobs with low wages. Fran Ryan, a labor historian and professor at Temple University, noted that the Black men who came to Philadelphia became day laborers paving streets and working as sanitation workers and women often worked as domestic servants.

The Great Migration’s impact is a lasting one. For the Blacks who settled in New York City, Harlem was their neighborhood and soon a proliferation of art and music emerged from the community known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The Civil Rights Movement stemmed from the Great Migration. The Blacks in the north were exposed to a new kind of equality and tolerance and watching their own community still suffer was not an option.

In her book, Wilkerson tells the story of George Swanson Starling, a Black man who was inspired to fight back as the social injustices of the South danced across his TV set in his New York City apartment. Turning off the TV or turning the page of the newspaper was not enough for George to forget the life left in the South: “…the despair did not leave him. He still had loved ones in the south.”

Starling had left Florida and made a new life for himself, but his extended family remained in the racially divided south. Starling began to collect money to help rebuild Black churches that had been destroyed by White supremacists.

The strife of the South did not end for the Blacks who were part of the Great Migration.

Prep Work

Due to our final project’s extensive nature, we’ve already started the leg work. My partner for the project is my classmate Vinny, and earlier this evening we met and began brainstorming. Here is the result:

First we decided on roles. Vinny is going to conduct the interviews and I will man the camera. We discussed possibly switching the roles each session, and we will work out those details in the future.

March 14th: After the lecture, we will meet our senior for the first time. Vinny and I plan to introduce ourselves and tell Mrs. Jefferson about our own backgrounds in order to establish a rapport. When introducing ourselves, we will be honest and try to find common ground with her. Then, we will explain the project in our own words so Mrs. Jefferson will know what to expect for the next few weeks. We will encourage her to ask us questions so everyone is on the same page. We will reinforce that we want the project to be a true reflection of her life and emphasize that Mrs. Jefferson’s input will be the driving force behind our project.  Mrs. Jefferson’s comfort is of the utmost importance to us, so we want her to be at ease. Conversely, we don’t want her to feel patronized; we don’t want her to think we’re only asking her these questions as a novelty, or on a whim.  We are both genuinely interested in learning about Mrs. Jefferson’s life and experiences.  We have agreed that honesty is the best way to both abate Mrs. Jefferson’s  hesitations and earn her respect and trust.

We’ve brainstormed an ice breaker questioned,  to use in the event that progress moves slow initially. Since we’ll be asking her about Germantown, an area that people from our walk of life have many misconceptions about, we plan on asking Mrs. Jefferson what she thinks about La Salle. If nothing else, this will show her that we’re interested in her opinion and want to see things as she does.

1.     We will get to know our senior by asking about her life in general. We’d like to find out about her family, where she lived initially and what was her life like there? Why did she move to Philadelphia?

2.     The questions that we’ll be asking will be grouped into themes. While we realize that a prepared interviewer should have questions in mind, we simultaneously acknowledge that being too stringent with our planning will bog down the interview process. As such, we will be basing our projected questions around themes:

a.     March 21­—Before the Migration

i.     Where did you live in the South? What was life like in the South? What traditions did your family have? What was a typical day like for you family? How did you spend your time together? How many siblings do you have? Did you all attend the same school? At what point did you realize that you were going to move to the North? What influenced your family’s decision? At the time, how did you react to the news that you were leaving your hometown? Were other family members or friends moving at the same time? How did your family leave the South? How long was the journey?

b.     March 28—After the Migration

i.     Where did you end up staying in Philadelphia? What was your initial reaction to your new surroundings? What was your new house like? Was it larger or smaller than your first home? How did you adjust to your new social surroundings? Was it difficult relating to your new neighbors? Did you stay in touch with any of your friends or family back in the South? If so, how often did you communicate? Did you ever consider going back to the south? How did the Civil Rights movement affect your experiences in the north? Did you find any animosity? If so, how did you overcome it?

c.      April 4—Reflecting on the Migration

i.     Now, as an adult, how do you feel about the Migration? Do you identify more with the south or the north? Was it worth moving?  If you were growing up today, do you think it would be easier to cope with a similar transition? Why?  Do you think  that the difficulty of the move has shaped  your character? Has growing up in difficult times shaped your character? Have you ever shared your story of the Migration to your grandchildren? If you have, what is their reaction? Awe? Embarrassment? If you haven’t shared your story, why not?

This meeting was very successful. Vinny and I were able to share ideas and establish a firm basis for the future of our project. Seeing as we will be working closely together for the next few weeks, it was important to not only establish an outline for the project, but to get to know one another as well. If you’re interested in checking out Vinny’s blog here’s the link.

Germantown Vox Pop

Germantown Residents Speak Up

Click the link to listen as Germantown residents voice their opinions on the community they call home.

Symbols of Hope in Germantown

On Sunday January 30th I went into Germantown with my classmate Sara. We parked in Mount Airy and walked south on Germantown Avenue. During our walk, we encountered many images that evoke “hope.” Here a few of my favorite images that I captured on my Canon Powershot camera:

An inspirational mosaic on the side of a public library.

This first image was taken at 2:58 pm on 1/30/11 on the side of a library off of Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia, PA. Resolution 2816×2112

A painting on display at a library.

This photo was taken at 3:02 pm on 1/30/11 through the window of the same library featured above. Resolution 500×667

A store celebrates its grand opening.

This photo was on Germantown Avenue at 3:24 pm on 1/30/11. Resolution 500×375