Journeys of Promise:Germantown and the Great Migration

Journeys of Promise:Germantown and the Great Migration

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Journeys of Promise: Germantown and the Great Migration is a 30-minute online documentary that tells the stories of six African Americans who migrated to Philadelphia from the South during the 1950s as part of the largest internal migration in U.S. history. The documentary was shown at Germantown’s Old City Hall on June 29, 2013 as part of the Hidden City Philadelphia Festival. It grew out of an online journalism class and an independent study course at La Salle University.

Led by Professors Huntly Collins in La Salle’s Communication Department and John Beatty in the English Department, the students set out to let six Germantown elders tell their own migration stories in their own words. Their stories capture the overt racism of the Jim Crow South as well as the hidden racism in Philadelphia. The stories also highlight the opportunities for jobs and education in the City of Brotherly Love.

The elders, all members of Center in the Park, a Germantown senior center, were interviewed during multiple meetings in Spring 2011. One member of the class, Kevin Smith, wove together elements of the interviews to produce this documentary as part of a follow-up independent study project in Fall 2011. 

The documentary has been used by the Clergy Aging Interfaith Coalition of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging to train Philadelphia-area ministers on the art of listening to the stories of older people. It has also been aired at Center in the Park, First United Methodist Church of Germantown  and La Salle’s Explorer Cafe.

An account of how the documentary was put together is at Team-Teaching Online Journalism by Focusing on the Great Migration, an article in the Spring 2012 issue of the journal Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication.

In addition to Kevin Smith, the documentary was reported by online journalism students Aime Bouchard, Angelique Jones, Anthony Machcinski, Claire Salmons, Emily Apisa, Eric Devlin, Erin Szrankowski, Jenn Quilter, Jim Fischer, Karen Orzechowski, Kyla Jones, Luke Harold, Mike Murphy, Monica White, Nina Burke, Sara Nugent, Steve Helms and Vinny Vella.