African American Time Capsule

While people of African descent have been in Western Pennsylvania since the 1750s, the population of this community began to dramatically increase in the early decades of the 20th century. From 1870 to 1900 the African American population in Allegheny County grew from around 4,500 to more than 20,000 people. World War I ended the flood of European immigrants that had been coming to this region and industrial jobs began opening to African Americans. This economic opportunity fueled the Great Migration from southern rural states to northern industrial cities. Each year, as part of the Great Migration, more African Americans came from places such as Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas. They came mostly by train and settled in the Hill District, Homestead, Lawrenceville, Braddock, and the North Side. They worked as laborers and in the steel mills, in the domestic services, and a few as professionals. Between 1910 and 1950, the black population in Allegheny County more than tripled to over 80,000 people. The Great Migration led to a social, cultural, and political awakening in Pittsburgh. African American-owned businesses and agencies supported the growing community, as churches, clubs, and organizations were also established to strengthen these communities. The objects in this Time Capsule represent the fabric of the community that was built here over time and serve as reminders of the people and institutions that flourished.