WHEN CHICAGO WAS HEAVEN

THE GREAT, LARGELY UNDOCUMENTED MIGRATION OF BLACKS FROM SOUTH TO NORTH IS MOVINGLY RECOUNTED IN THE PROMISED LAND

When the bus carrying O'Dell Wills from Mississippi to Chicago in 1950 neared its destination, the sharecroppers' son could hardly contain his excitement. "When we hit the city limits," he recalls, "I said, 'Wow! I'm home free. This is heaven.'" Fifteen years later, Dorothy Tillman, a civil rights worker arriving from Alabama, saw the high-rise apartment buildings where most blacks then lived and had a different reaction. "Look at all them there factories in the middle of the city," she said to her companion. "Those are not factories," he replied. "People live there."

Between 1940 and 1970, 5 million blacks moved...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!