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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

A Changing America

With the rise of industry in the nineteenth century, U.S. cities grew with every passing decade. The war helped to fuel what we today refer to as the Great Migration, a decades-long process that ultimately reshaped American culture, society, and politics. Beginning in the 1910s, African Americans migrated from southern farms and small towns into northern cities. Many hoped to escape Jim Crow, the South's system of legalized segregation and disenfranchisement, while simultaneously exploiting employment opportunities created by the war. Adjusting to their new urban circumstances, migrants endured segregation, discrimination, and sometimes physical violence.

At the same time, women worked to expand the right to vote nationally. The suffrage movement predated the war by decades, but World War I proved a pivotal moment. Radical suffragists picketed the White House, while more moderate groups touted their contributions to the war. As a result, Woodrow Wilson became the first president to advocate a constitutional amendment. In 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, which was ratified in 1920.