At the end of World War One, most African Americans were descendants of Africans who had been taken to America to be used as slaves during the 17th – 19th centuries.
They faced an unequal and segregated society in which racism and violence was common place, especially in the southern states.
They often migrated to northern cities such as New York, Detroit and Chicago.
Competition for jobs between black people and white people increased racial tensions in northern cities.
Like new immigrants, black people were often used to break strikes and were blamed for lowering wages.
After the war, there were race riots in several northern cities. The worst violence occurred in Chicago in 1919 and resulted in 138 deaths.