Almost all black Americans currently living in the North have family roots in the South. Their parents and grandparents were among the more than a million black southerners who migrated to the North in search of better lives during the period between the first and second World Wars. This period in history is commonly known as the "Great Migration."
In reality, they were separate and unequal, and, as Louis Lomax put it, "inequality is the Siamese twin of injustice."
The belief that the North held the key to better jobs, less discrimination, and political rights motivated tens of thousands of African-Americans to migrate from South to North, from countryside to city. The African-American quest for justice and freedom had survived three hundred years of slavery. Now, they were determined to share in the prosperity enjoyed by their fellow Americans. As during slavery, the way to freedom and a better life lay due North.
They could not dress well enough, nor tithe high enough, to please these "silk stocking" churchgoers, who themselves had been poor and downtrodden only a generation before. These "old-line" churches were interested in assimilating mainstream American values and practices. For instance, they used choirs that sang European devotional music and did not permit the singing of "devil songs" and "jumped-up" songs, as the blues were commonly termed.
The new arrivals wanted to worship in places where they could feel the power of God in their bodies and express His grace with their voices. They found what they were looking for in Chicago's many storefront churches. These small congregations provided a place for them to develop a sense of community through their shared spiritual bonds. Those who worked as janitors or on low-level assembly lines gained self-esteem and social status by providing service and stewardship to the church. These parishioners provided the membership that resulted in the opening of some three hundred storefront churches in the Chicago area during the 1930s.