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In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilk In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.


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In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilk In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.  From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

30 review for The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    In 1994 Isabel Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, making her the first African American woman to do so. Upon receiving this prestigious award, Wilkerson, a daughter of migrants, paused to think of those who paved the way so that she could have the opportunity to earn such an honor. Listing a who's who of prominent African Americans of the 20th century, many had moved with their families during the Great Migration, north or west in search of a better life. Ray Charles, Bill Russell, In 1994 Isabel Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, making her the first African American woman to do so. Upon receiving this prestigious award, Wilkerson, a daughter of migrants, paused to think of those who paved the way so that she could have the opportunity to earn such an honor. Listing a who's who of prominent African Americans of the 20th century, many had moved with their families during the Great Migration, north or west in search of a better life. Ray Charles, Bill Russell, Jesse Owens, and numerous others began their life in the segregated south with no future, and ended up famous because their parents had the foresight to leave. Yet, most Americans are familiar with the Bill Russells of the world; Wilkerson desired to introduce her readers to the average migrant who left. The idea that became The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration had been born. Wilkerson made the decision to research why African Americans left the south, and over the next three years would interview countless migrants and their descendants to pinpoint and shed light on an often overlooked era in American history. Between 1919 and 1970 millions of African Americans left their bleak lives and ended up in northern cities, giving themselves and their children hope for the future. Wilkerson chose for her subjects three people, one each who migrated to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles in search of attaining the American dream. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney left Mississippi in 1937 and ended up in Chicago where she would live until her death in 2004. Living in a Jim Crow society with no hope for the future, Ida Mae, her husband George, and their two children took the midnight train north to Milwaukee, where Ida Mae's sister lived. Eventually, the family settled on Chicago's south side, where they would find life long jobs in both factories or hospitals. The children attended a desegregated school and one became a teacher. Although blue collar jobs, the Gladneys made the most of their opportunity, never missing a day of work, and even became long time home owners. Ida Mae did not regret her decision at all because she knew that she would have had little future at all in a white supremacist south. Chicago became her home and she lived as a proud citizen, never missing an election, and admired by all who knew her. I was most captivated by Ida Mae's story because she was an immigrant to Chicago, much like my paternal family in the 1910s. Yet, Wilkerson's other two subjects lead equally compelling lives. George Swanson Starling was smuggled out of Florida in 1943 and lived in Harlem for the rest of his life, yet never quite leaving the south. Working as a porter on train routes between New York and Florida, Starling became an advocate for African American passengers, working at this profession for 35 years. Even though it was a small step up from life in the south, at least Starling knew that he was free to live his life as he pleased, without the constant fear for his life. In the end of his life, Starling still managed to straddle both worlds. Most successful by material standards was Robert Joseph Pershing Foster who moved from Monroe, Louisiana to Los Angeles in 1953. An accomplished surgeon, Foster had no rights to practice in the south, even as the son-in-law to the president of a prestigious black college. Foster knew of many other Monroe residents who ended up in Los Angeles and he viewed it as the ultimate land of opportunity. Revered for his entire professional career, Dr Foster was the personal physician of the likes of Ray Charles and even had a song written about him. Las Vegas became a second home, and Dr Foster never shied from the limelight. Yet, despite his appearances, he still was a southerner and exhibited many insecurities during his life. He told Wilkerson that he migrated so that his daughters could enjoy an upper class life free of discrimination. Wilkerson won the Pulitzer while a journalist for the New York Times, and her journalistic skills are evident throughout this book. While a nonfiction book detailing fifty years of history, the text read like a rich story, reeling me in from the very first pages. In addition to knowing how the history played out in time, I wanted to find out how Ida Mae, George, and Dr Foster lived in relative comfort as northerners. Wilkerson is the daughter of migrants herself and she showed both empathy and compassion toward her elderly subjects. A gem of a book and a jewel detailing an often overlooked era of American history, The Warmth of Other Suns easily rates 5 bright stars. I look forward to reading Wilkerson's future masterpieces, whenever she writes them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    JJ

    Thinking back, I tried to recall some of the migrations that took place within America that I had learned about: - The Gold Rush - The Dustbowl Migration Somewhere along the lines, my teachers forgot to mention the approximately six million people that left the Jim Crow South during 1915-1975, in search of a “kinder mistress”, and that they summoned up the courage, and risked their lives to drive cross-country, illegally hop trains, and save for months to secure a train ticket headed to Los Angeles Thinking back, I tried to recall some of the migrations that took place within America that I had learned about: - The Gold Rush - The Dustbowl Migration Somewhere along the lines, my teachers forgot to mention the approximately six million people that left the Jim Crow South during 1915-1975, in search of a “kinder mistress”, and that they summoned up the courage, and risked their lives to drive cross-country, illegally hop trains, and save for months to secure a train ticket headed to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. This migration was similar to that of anyone crossing the Atlantic or the Rio Grande, except that these migrants were already citizens of this country, but just like other migrants, they were escaping the hardships of [one part of] their own country. This daunting journey could be clear across the continent, and to a world that was completely foreign to them. Many of these Americans never looked back. Some blending into the crowds to never be heard from again, and some even changing their names to forever cut any ties to the South. Wilkerson herself was a product of this migration, as her parents left the South early on. She had recognized the fact that this generation of Southerners was dwindling and that her time to gather information was limited. She spent fifteen years of her life devoted to this book, and spent countless hours researching and interviewing approximately 1200 people, to tell a story she thought everyone should know. Rightfully so, as this migration went on to shape America’s urban cities, their culture, the geography of neighborhoods, and the beginnings of suburbanization and housing projects. In the beginning, I found it really difficult to read. She detailed the brutality of the south, the injustices, lynchings, the degradation and despair. I couldn’t fathom growing up in the South during this time, being treated inhumanely and the hopelessness of ever rising above it. Wilkerson tells the stories of three migrants, Ida Mae Gladney, who left Mississippi for Chicago, George Starling who left Florida for New York, and finally Robert Pershing Foster who left Louisiana for Los Angeles. Their stories are different and unique, yet they intertwine, and are interspersed with detailed facts about the migration and other stories of the South. But in telling the stories of Ida, George and Robert, she personalized and humanized them. You cried with them, you hoped for them, and you rooted for them. In the end, I couldn’t put it down. I had to read more, hoping they would “make it”. How amazing it must have been to have sat with them and heard firsthand this bit of history. It is part journalism (she is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist), part storytelling. It’s epic, it’s heartbreaking, inspirational and educational. I have learned so much from this book. It is one of the best pieces of non-fiction I have ever read. I was intrigued and moved by it, and will carry their stories with me for many years to come. In one of the most poignant quotes of this book, Robert said, “How could it be that people were fighting to the death over something that was, in the end, so very ordinary”. Yes, something as ordinary as being free to go and do as you please, and to do something as “ordinary’ as sitting in a diner with everyone else and eating a meal just as he had.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This is going to sound a little weird, but throughout my reading of The Warmth of Other Suns, which is primarily about the migration of black Americans from the Jim Crow South to western and northern U.S. cities during a large portion of the 20th century, I kept thinking about my upper-middle-class white high school biology teacher, Mrs. Ferry. Mrs. Ferry had a pretty significant impact on the direction my life took—she was a vibrant older woman who demanded a lot from her students, and those qu This is going to sound a little weird, but throughout my reading of The Warmth of Other Suns, which is primarily about the migration of black Americans from the Jim Crow South to western and northern U.S. cities during a large portion of the 20th century, I kept thinking about my upper-middle-class white high school biology teacher, Mrs. Ferry. Mrs. Ferry had a pretty significant impact on the direction my life took—she was a vibrant older woman who demanded a lot from her students, and those qualities, combined with her sudden death mid-year, sparked my lifelong interest in science. But one of the things I’ll always remember about her is a single conversation we had about her experiences living in Alabama in the 1950s. She talked about segregation and inequality, about economic disparity, and about the brutal examples of injustice she had witnessed personally. I listened to everything she said, but being a 15 year-old at the time, I wasn’t able to completely assimilate those horrors or understand what kinds of long-term effects Jim Crow would have on the black people who lived under its harsh rule. So in many ways, this book filled in some of the gaps for me. If nothing else, Isabel Wilkerson is thorough. She covers the exodus of blacks from the Deep South beginning with the First World War right up through the end of the Civil Rights Movement, and even slightly beyond (as its effects were not necessarily immediate in certain Southern strongholds). Because this pattern of migration lasted for several generations, it was difficult to “see it” while it was happening, and most of its participants were virtually unaware that they were part of any statistical shift in black American residency, but in the end, six million black people left the South during these years. And while Jim Crow is arguably the chief (and perhaps even the sole) reason for this migration, the backgrounds, experiences, and outcomes of these migrants ranged as widely as one might expect considering the movement’s longevity. Wilkerson focuses on three biographies to describe the migration, each subject hailing from a different Southern state, each migrating in a different decade, and each carrying with him a different set of circumstances that factored into his decision to leave, yet they were all (spiritually) united in their desire to extricate themselves from a situation for which they saw no viable future. The move itself wasn’t easy for any of them, and often times the cities to which they migrated, while being free of government-sanctioned segregation, were still riddled with racism and injustice. Overall, this book did a lot to explain why some cities, and even some sections of those cities became predominantly black, and it was by no means a coincidence that they lay along primary railroad routes out of the South. More than that, it did a lot to explain how those from Georgia and Florida migrated mostly to Boston and New York, those from Alabama and Mississippi moved to cities like Detroit and Chicago, and those from Louisiana and Texas went to Los Angeles and other West Coast cities. While the logistics of black migration are interesting, and I was reminded of how awful conditions were for those living in the Jim Crow South, not to mention the difficulties that persisted even for the ones who left, Wilkerson tended to repeat herself a great deal. And because she focused on the lives of the three migrants in particular, her story did not end with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but continued following these characters’ lives, the trajectories of which would become more anecdotal in nature and less “representative” of their migrant generation, well into the 1990s. It is clear she became attached to these people emotionally, which is certainly not a bad thing, but it is what caused it to drag a bit for me, even though I ordinarily find myself more interested in the human interest aspect of history. Regardless, The Warmth of Other Suns is solidly researched and serves as an important tool for better understanding the trials and tribulations of black Americans in the 20th century, trials that are altogether human, yet which I had not otherwise been exposed to outside of my Rhode Island prep school upbringing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a 2010 Random House publication. Exceptional! It is seldom that a nonfiction book, especially one covering an incredibly detailed history, is both densely informative and compulsively readable. This is my ‘Black History Month’ read- and I can honestly say, I couldn’t have made a better choice for such an occasion. The book covers the migration out of the south from the early 1900s all the way through to The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a 2010 Random House publication. Exceptional! It is seldom that a nonfiction book, especially one covering an incredibly detailed history, is both densely informative and compulsively readable. This is my ‘Black History Month’ read- and I can honestly say, I couldn’t have made a better choice for such an occasion. The book covers the migration out of the south from the early 1900s all the way through to the 1970s, and follows three African- Americans- Ida Brandon Gladney, who made it all the way from Mississippi to Chicago, George Swanson Starling, who traveled from Florida to New York, and Joseph Pershing Foster, who left Louisiana for Los Angeles, California. While their ultimate destinations were still not always ideal, meaning they still encountered harsh racism and segregation, they were afforded more freedom. The three main subjects are not the only people the author includes in the book, sporadically weaving in tales about others who migrated out of the South, which paints a full picture of how and why these decisions to relocate changed the dynamics in other parts of the United States. The amount of research that went into this book is astounding. The stories are personable and real, allowing one to visualize the journey through the eyes of the Ida, George, and Joseph- by putting the reader in their shoes, and into situations that really makes one think. This book is ambitious and immense. It dispels myths, recalls important traditions, and chronicles the challenges, setbacks and disappointments facing those who only wished to achieve freedom and a better life. The journey, though long and arduous, paved with adversity and tribulation, is also one of triumph and success. The struggles are still here, obviously, but these stories are a reminder of what can be accomplished when one has the courage, not only to take chances and make changes, but to also make a difference for themselves and for the benefit of future generations. Five big epic stars!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    When I requested this particular book, I had one goal: to learn about the Great Migration and the Jim Crow aspect. These were the terms I often came across while reading my friends’ reviews or some novels, and I admit I had no knowledge of what these terms stand for. I understood the context, but I felt that was not enough. After getting tired of my ignorance, I chose this non-fiction after reading several wonderful reviews by my Friends. Ms Wilkerson wrote a book that is long, but it cannot be When I requested this particular book, I had one goal: to learn about the Great Migration and the Jim Crow aspect. These were the terms I often came across while reading my friends’ reviews or some novels, and I admit I had no knowledge of what these terms stand for. I understood the context, but I felt that was not enough. After getting tired of my ignorance, I chose this non-fiction after reading several wonderful reviews by my Friends. Ms Wilkerson wrote a book that is long, but it cannot be short as the Great Migration took over 70 years, and she explains social, political and industrial aspect behind it through the lives of three African Americans and their families representing three waves of the Migration. The Authoress even argues that in fact it was immigration rather than migration in the context of the reasons, the difficulties for the migrants to overcome and tough conditions they found themselves in after the arrival where they hoped to find safety and stability. I was overwhelmed to learn how the US had changed owing to the influx of the African Americans to the North, and even more by the fact that they were not that warmly embraced there. This book was eye-opening for me indeed and is a must if you are interested in the American culture in the broad sense. Thank you to my GR Friends whose reviews brought this book to my attention!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I wish I had it in my power to make this book required reading for everyone, at least all students. When we cringe at the horrors waged against others in the world today, we need to remember our own not so distant history and take the lead in driving change.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns is one of those rare books that cracks open the world and makes you see everything you thought you knew in a different light. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chronicles the massive migration of blacks from the Jim Crow South, where racism was still entrenched, to the North and West. This happened from 1915 to 1970 and forever changed the country, especially the makeup of the big cities. While Wilkerson’s scope is large, and takes in history, labou Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns is one of those rare books that cracks open the world and makes you see everything you thought you knew in a different light. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chronicles the massive migration of blacks from the Jim Crow South, where racism was still entrenched, to the North and West. This happened from 1915 to 1970 and forever changed the country, especially the makeup of the big cities. While Wilkerson’s scope is large, and takes in history, labour, urban planning and sociology, and includes some beautiful quotes from the writers of the time (the title comes from a Langston Hughes poem), she also focuses on the lives of three unique individuals who made the move in different decades. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney left the cotton farms of Mississippi for Chicago in 1937; George Starling, a bright and ambitious man who was run out of Florida for organizing fruit pickers, escaped to Harlem in 1945; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster left his middle-class Louisiana family in the 1950s to become a doctor, eventually making his way to Los Angeles, where he became, among other things, Ray Charles’s personal physician. Their stories are as gripping, full of life and moving as anything in a novel. Some scenes will stay with me forever, such as the account of Foster’s long and lonely drive west, where, despite being out of the south, he could find no motel or hotel who would rent him a room - all because of the colour of his skin. Years later, when he’s an established professional, Foster and his wife and friends are turned away from a Las Vegas hotel, even though Sammy Davis Junior is performing there. There are lynchings in the South, but there are fights, bombings and fires in the North. The story of how one black family is shown it’s not wanted in the largely white Chicago neighbourhood of Cicero will make you weep for humanity. Still, there is the possibility of freedom and opportunity in the north. If not in one generation, then the next. Wilkerson's list of famous African-Americans whose families migrated north reads like a who's who of success. Wilkerson uses scholarship to quash all misconceptions. Black migrants from the South were on average better educated than those who stayed and soon would have a higher level of education than the blacks they joined. The black migrants of the 1950s had more education even than the northern white population they joined. And contrary to common belief, the black migrants were more likely to be married, remain married and less likely to bear children out of wedlock and head single-parent households than black northerners. I also didn’t realize that migration patterns were dependent on what transportation line was available. Speaking of transportation, there’s a theory that Newark, New Jersey became a popular destination because Southerners, unused to Yankee accents and not wanting to miss their stop, mistook the “Penn Station, Newark” for “Penn Station, New York.” This book is filled with lots of fascinating details like this. After reading this back in February, I’ve since read books by James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, both of them part of the great migration north (although Angelou’s mother sent her back south to Alabama to be raised by her grandmother - a common occurrence). I have a few quibbles. Wilkerson will often repeat stories to remind you of what’s happened to a person before (understandable in a book of this scope), but if you’re a close and careful reader that might irritate you. And I wish there were some photos. On the author’s website, however, you can see some fantastic shots of her three subjects so you have a visual to go along with their unforgettable stories.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    An amazing story about the mass migration of blacks fleeing to the North and West in order to escape the horrors of the Jim Crow south. Isabel Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people and spent years completing her thorough research. This work of non-fiction highlights the stories of three unrelated individuals, Ida Mae Gladney, Robert Foster, and George Starling in their journeys from Mississippi to Chicago, Louisiana to Los Angeles, and Florida to New York City, respectively. The atrocitie An amazing story about the mass migration of blacks fleeing to the North and West in order to escape the horrors of the Jim Crow south. Isabel Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people and spent years completing her thorough research. This work of non-fiction highlights the stories of three unrelated individuals, Ida Mae Gladney, Robert Foster, and George Starling in their journeys from Mississippi to Chicago, Louisiana to Los Angeles, and Florida to New York City, respectively. The atrocities, injustices, struggles, and triumphs are well-documented and beautifully described. I also appreciated the little snippets from such prominent individuals as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Mahalia Jackson and others that preceded each new chapter. The ultimate question Ms. Wilkerson asks is "Were the people who left the South - and their families - better off for having done so? Was the loss of what they left behind worth what confronted them in the anonymous cities they fled to?"

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I loved this book on several levels--though with one caveat. First and foremost, by narrating the lives of three very different participants in the Great Migration, Wilkerson fleshes out an important historical story that most of us know only in general outline, if that. The details of routine racial discrimination that these individuals faced both before and after coming to the North are horrifyingly vivid and impossible to ignore. Wilkerson's research is thorough and deep, and her (somewhat co I loved this book on several levels--though with one caveat. First and foremost, by narrating the lives of three very different participants in the Great Migration, Wilkerson fleshes out an important historical story that most of us know only in general outline, if that. The details of routine racial discrimination that these individuals faced both before and after coming to the North are horrifyingly vivid and impossible to ignore. Wilkerson's research is thorough and deep, and her (somewhat controversial) comparisons of African American migrants to immigrant populations strike me as particularly insightful. Her prose can indeed be luminous at times. But why, oh why, didn't her editor remove the frequent and maddening repetition of simple facts (Ida Mae was terrible at picking cotton; newspapers reported "without apology" the disparity between white and black teachers' pay), often within a short span of pages? As an editor, I may be unusually attuned to and distracted by this flaw--but I know I'm not the only one. Given the monumental effort involved in researching and writing (and marketing) this book, I wish someone had given the final manuscript the detailed editorial attention it deserved.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    The Warmth of Other Suns details the 70 year silent migration of Blacks from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western states. Six million people made the move, far outpacing any other migration within this country. Wilkerson does a superb job of explaining what led to the migration and how it played out. By using three individuals, from three different locales and time periods, she gives you a personal view in addition to the bare facts. It worked well to keep me engaged and helped the boo The Warmth of Other Suns details the 70 year silent migration of Blacks from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western states. Six million people made the move, far outpacing any other migration within this country. Wilkerson does a superb job of explaining what led to the migration and how it played out. By using three individuals, from three different locales and time periods, she gives you a personal view in addition to the bare facts. It worked well to keep me engaged and helped the book flow. I wanted to read this in light of the current discussions over system racism. Wilkerson outlines the multitude of ways racism, in all its guises, has led to wealth disparity. She puts to lie several of the myths about the migration, like it was mostly poorly educated cotton pickers who migrated. Or that the migrants were a destabilizing influence on the cities they moved into. Wilkerson has a way with words, for example, describing the railroad porters as the midwives of the Great Migration It’s not an easy book to read. She details numerous examples of lynchings and massacres in the south and the northern race riots. Whereas the South made its rules known, the North was an open field of landmines to be negotiated. I learned so much reading this book. I strongly recommend it to everyone who has an interest in American history. I’m thrilled that I have received an ARC of her upcoming book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    After listening to The Warmth of Other Suns for close to two months in 40 minute increments on my walk to work every morning, the main thing I want to say is WOW. This book is extraordinary in so many ways. And I think I have to break my self-imposed one paragraph rule for this review because there are so many dimensions to the Warmth of Other Suns. Wilkerson writes a comprehensive multidimensional book about the great migration -- the move by millions of African Americans from the southern U.S. After listening to The Warmth of Other Suns for close to two months in 40 minute increments on my walk to work every morning, the main thing I want to say is WOW. This book is extraordinary in so many ways. And I think I have to break my self-imposed one paragraph rule for this review because there are so many dimensions to the Warmth of Other Suns. Wilkerson writes a comprehensive multidimensional book about the great migration -- the move by millions of African Americans from the southern U.S. to the north from the 1920s to the 1970s. She focuses on the lives of three people -- Ida May, George and Robert. She has broken their life story into parallel segments starting with their southern childhoods all the way to the end of their lives. Their narratives are interspersed with a wealth of information about the Jim Crow laws and life in the southern U.S. after slavery, the history and sociology of the great migration, and the living conditions and politics in the north for the migrants. And just to make the whole experience richer, she throws in many quotes from various African American writers and other historical figures. It's fascinating, infuriating and inspiring from beginning to end. I especially loved Wilkerson’s depiction of Ida May, George and Robert. She brings them to life as three dimensional complex people. Their motivations, strength of character and flaws are painted through detailed anecdotes of their childhood, educational and work lives, family, spouses, what led them to migrate, their life after migration and the last years of their lives. It’s amazing that Wilkerson is able to provide such a detailed account of their lives, but she clearly spent hours interviewing them and others who knew them. The narrator in the audio occasionally takes on their voices when she quotes them, bringing them to life even more. It’s hard to avoid feeling the connection Wilkerson developed with them, especially at the end as she is very transparent about how close she became to them -- even accompanying Robert to doctors' appointments and Ida May to more than one funeral. And Wilkerson so skilfully writes about them with respect but without ever over romanticizing them. It's pathetic how little I knew about the great migration and the lives of southern African Americans in the earlier 20th century -- except in the broadest and simplest strokes. Being Canadian is a poor excuse, especially pathetic since I lived in North Carolina in the late 1980s for a couple of years where the long term effects of segregation were certainly visible. But this is part of Wilkerson's narrative -- that this massive human movement that has had huge repercussions on the lives of millions of individuals and the American landscape has until recently received very little mainstream attention -- and the attention it has received has tended to be over simplistic. Wilkerson certainly manages to fill this gap, delivering so much information so masterfully. Through the details of the lives of Ida May, Robert and George, she conveys so much. Images that will stick with me: Robert's excruciating drive across the desert on his way to California where there were no motels where he could stay and it wasn't safe for him to stop on the side of the road to sleep; when Ida May buys a house in a white middle class neighbourhood in Chicago, the house across the street literally disappears overnight and over the first year all of the houses owned by white Americans are sold to African American families; George's fearless negotiations for higher wages in the Florida orange groves and his co-workers' fearful visit to the owner to tell him they weren't on side with George's demands; and George's work on the railroad and the description of how when crossing from north to south the "coloured" cars had to be attached so that the railcars could be segregated for the ride into the south. It's a very long book, so if you listen to the audio, be prepared for the 20 hour plus narrative which occasionally feels a bit slow. But overall the narration is very well done, nicely punctuated by the occasional imagined voices of Ida May, Robert and George. On a final note, earlier this year I had the good fortune to stumble on Jacob Lawrence's paintings of the great migration at the MOMA while on a visit to New York. I had never heard of them and it was such a gift to find these beautiful vivid paintings. And the images in the paintings hovered in my mind as I listened to Wilkerson's book. Here's a link to a book about his paintings: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... Again WOW! This was so good. I learned so much and felt so much -- the perfect reading (or listening) experience.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    This was excellent, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to read this justifiably long and essential read about a slice of forgotten American history detailing the decades-long migration of almost six million black citizens from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1970, hoping for a better life, and how their resettlement changed the face of America. Wilkerson focuses on the stories of three individuals, giving us both an intimate portrayal and Big Picture view of what they exper This was excellent, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to read this justifiably long and essential read about a slice of forgotten American history detailing the decades-long migration of almost six million black citizens from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1970, hoping for a better life, and how their resettlement changed the face of America. Wilkerson focuses on the stories of three individuals, giving us both an intimate portrayal and Big Picture view of what they experienced and how this changed the country. I listened to the audiobook, and while the narration was excellent, I struggled mightily during the first third of the book where Wilkerson lays out her premise and the contours of history. For that reason, I would have preferred to read this on paper. But once the stories of the three families she follows take over, I didn't want to stop listening.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    An excellent social history that I finally got to and through with the therapy of staring for days at the rocky Maine coast for a week! I knew it would sucker-punch me, as it did. I flashbacked on how my old, undergraduate prof in Race and Ethnic Relations mentioned he was quiting teaching the course after over 20 years as it was discouraging so little progress was made. Here I am in the same boat job-wise, and I haven't taught it for a couple years but can't help fixating daily on race and the An excellent social history that I finally got to and through with the therapy of staring for days at the rocky Maine coast for a week! I knew it would sucker-punch me, as it did. I flashbacked on how my old, undergraduate prof in Race and Ethnic Relations mentioned he was quiting teaching the course after over 20 years as it was discouraging so little progress was made. Here I am in the same boat job-wise, and I haven't taught it for a couple years but can't help fixating daily on race and the current US political disaster, on race and civil rights, on race and education, on race and incarneration, on race and class, really. "Only in America" would life conditions trigger the largest, longest internal migration ever recorded in human history. Ouch. But we miserably failed at reconstruction and with the Jim Crow south those White, urban centers somehow seemed less scary. I'm glad Wilkerson traced the life story of one woman as well as the two men, because I do wonder how much in those often tight Black families it was the men of the day that were itching to head north, or if it was more the womanfolk who were agitating. Of course, poor women always worked so I'm assuming that even in the early 20th century there was full-time wage or piecemeal work for virtually all the Black women who moved north, too. The migration was it's own kind of "manifest destiny", even - a collective pull for social stability for themselves and their families as well as the chance of social mobility. I've become friends with a delightful student - one my age, a rare Black man in Portland who just finished up his first college degree after a life of activism and leadership in mental health for African-Americans, and he told me another jarring story (hypocriphal?) of the Great Migration. He remembers his gentle, loving grandfather telling him when he was a child about moving from Mississippi to St. Louis. Grandpa had a good job, but just trying to walk to it was a challenge as a burly Irish cop decided to make his life Hell. Every day, the cop would wait for this Black interloper to walk through "his" neighborhood, and the harrassment escalated to beatings with the nightstick if nobody was around (or even if other Whites laughed.) Eventually, Grandpa made it to the top of the buildling next to where the cop would often lurk down below on a corner, and dropped a concrete block down on him. "Did you kill him, Grandpa?", my friend asked. Grandpa just said "I don't know, but I never saw him again."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    My Uncle Jerry appreciated this book so much that when he finished reading it, he sent me his hardcover copy through the mail in order to make sure I read it! I hail from Detroit, and some of my elders, there---knowing how much I read and write---told me it was an ABSOLUTE MUST-READ. Nobody lied! This book is a powerful, sensitive, exhaustively researched and compellingly composed and important work of “narrative nonfiction” written by journalist-turned-griot, Isabel Wilkerson. It has been easy t My Uncle Jerry appreciated this book so much that when he finished reading it, he sent me his hardcover copy through the mail in order to make sure I read it! I hail from Detroit, and some of my elders, there---knowing how much I read and write---told me it was an ABSOLUTE MUST-READ. Nobody lied! This book is a powerful, sensitive, exhaustively researched and compellingly composed and important work of “narrative nonfiction” written by journalist-turned-griot, Isabel Wilkerson. It has been easy to encapsulate, segregate, and over-simplify the black American experience in a way that says blacks were slaves freed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and afterward, made little appearances and contributions to American culture here and there until the great match known as the Civil Rights Movement was struck to flint in the middle of the 20th century, and now look! the nations’s 44th President is an African-American man! Well, this book is here with corrections, enlightenment, celebration, mourning, and statistics. This American history of The Great Migration (1915-1970) connects the dots and fills in the blanks in a way that hasn’t been done before. Imagine reading novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Ernest Gaines,Toni Morrison, and J. California Cooper folded in with oral histories, newspaper archives, census reports, and commissioned sociological research---thought about and written in a new way. I grew up in Detroit raised with southern black folkways and up-and-coming northern folkways. One side of my family left Mississippi in the first decade of the 20th century, later hooking-up with the other side of my family, who migrated from Alabama in the 1940s and 50s. Reading The Warmth of Other Suns is like being an Israelite and reading about yourself and your family in the Old Testament of the Bible!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    In the future, people will probably mistake the the origin of the phrase ‘the warmth of other suns’ to be this big book on America’s Great Migration, when it fact Wilkerson credits the phrase to a poem of Richard Wright’s that she uses as an epigraph: "I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown. I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of In the future, people will probably mistake the the origin of the phrase ‘the warmth of other suns’ to be this big book on America’s Great Migration, when it fact Wilkerson credits the phrase to a poem of Richard Wright’s that she uses as an epigraph: "I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown. I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns, and, perhaps, to bloom."The beautiful, elegiac poem expresses regret one had to leave some of one’s roots behind in order to ‘transplant’ elsewhere. Wilkerson interviewed about 1,200 people and did subsidiary research to collect & corroborate enough impressions and remembrances that she felt comfortable in this period and could supply details others forgot. I'd be willing to bet she used techniques similar to those used by the author of one of my favorite histories, the award-winning Russian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, who wrote Secondhand Time: An Oral History of the Fall of the Soviet Union. Alexievich’s journalistic technique uses the general experience to elucidate the personal, though Wilkerson also did extensive interviews with the three main subjects of her narrative. The Great Migration covered the period 1915-1970; Wilkerson’s own attention span covers a period of almost one hundred years, from 1915-2010. The three different sets of migrants whose lives she uses as examples did not know one another, and all three were alive when she began her research; all three had died before she’d finished. George Starling moving up the eastern seaboard from Florida to Harlem in New York City; Ida May Gladney moved from Mississippi to Chicago, part of the midwest migration; and Robert Foster moved from Louisiana to California, an experience about which I knew the least. The book is huge with detail. It can’t be rushed, and those who read or listen to it regularly, recognizing it may take weeks to get to it all, may enjoy it best. There is a rhythm to the telling; it is long-form story-telling, and it adheres to an oral tradition. One can certainly make the case that, since Wilkerson conducted interviews for the bulk of her narrative, this is in a long line of family histories passed down orally from generation to generation. The experiences she recounts fills in holes some discover in our own family histories. We can now imagine what the migrants must have encountered. In charts showing the movement of African Americans from the South to different parts of the country in the last century, Los Angeles and cities in California got only a third or smaller proportion of what Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Philadelphia settled. Boston and New York were in between those two. One incident Wilkerson recounted that shook me badly was the story of the attempted integration in the summer of 1951 in Cicero, an all-white town on the southwest border of Chicago. The mob mentality that took over the reason of the so-called white people—and it should be noted this was a broad swath of first- and second-generation European immigrants—when they learned a black couple had rented an apartment is horrifying, terrifying to recount. The couple’s belongings and the apartment were destroyed…on day one. The next three days brought a full-scale riot that needed the National Guard to subdue. Boston is not specifically mentioned in this history, but the New York experience plays a large part. Wilkerson makes reference to the Northern Paradox, a term coined by the sociologist Gunnar Myrdal: “In the North, Myrdal wrote, ‘almost everybody is against discrimination in general, but, at the same time, almost everybody practices discrimination in his own personal affairs’—that is, by not allowing blacks into unions or clubhouses, certain jobs, and white neighborhoods, indeed, avoiding social interaction overall.”Considering African Americans apparently occupied approximately 25% of the population in these two cities, I’d have to agree that the discrimination, in Boston at least, is subtle, hidden, denied since most neighborhoods until recently were clearly segregated. Ida Mae Gladney left Mississippi for Chicago October 14, 1929, and eventually ended up voting for Barak Obama as senator of Illinois. In describing cooking and eating corn bread the way it was made when she was coming up, she says “Now you put you some butter and some buttermilk on it,” she says, “and it make you want to hurt yourself.”I’ve never heard that phrase before, but it sure covers a number of addictive activities. In describing Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster’s life in California, we get an indelible picture of the man by the way he remembered the clothing he and his wife wore at eventful moments in their lives. “He remembered one night in particular. He was wearing a black mohair suit he ordered specifically for the occasion from the tailor who dressed Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. He wore a black tie with a burgundy stripe, a white tab-collar shirt, gold cuff links, black shoes, black silk socks, and a white handkerchief with his initials, RPF, embroidered in silver.” Elsewhere he mentions this black mohair suit jacket has a silk lining in scarlet. How can one begrudge a man who is so enthusiastic in his compositions? There is such joy there. The last individual detailed in this book, George Swanson Starling, was memorable for what he did not accomplish. His family held him back from finishing college, so George married an unsuitable woman and left home for the North. "It was spite," George would say of the decisions he made at that moment in his life…"That’s why I preach today, Do not do spite," he said. "Spite does not pay. It goes around and misses the object that you aim [at] and goes back and zaps you. And you’re the one who pays for it."A truer lesson was never told. I used Whispersync to listen/read. Robin Miles narrates and her reading is perfect in pace and clarity. Ken Burns gave an intro to the audio edition which was not reproduced in the kindle version. He says, basically, "This is must-read nonfiction, essential to our understanding of race. I loved this book" and more. We haven’t had this kind of history told in this way before. Allowing this history to inform the construct that is your life will change that life a little bit.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    I loved this!! If you haven't read it, you are missing something astonishing and deeply moving. Wilkerson shows us the migration of blacks from the south to the north from 1915 through 1970 through the lives of three main characters - Ida Mae Gladney (Chickasaw County, Mississippi to Chicago), George Swanson Starling (Wildwood, Florida to New York City), and Robert Pershing Foster (Monroe, Louisiana to Los Angeles). Three very different people with different stories over different decades, but t I loved this!! If you haven't read it, you are missing something astonishing and deeply moving. Wilkerson shows us the migration of blacks from the south to the north from 1915 through 1970 through the lives of three main characters - Ida Mae Gladney (Chickasaw County, Mississippi to Chicago), George Swanson Starling (Wildwood, Florida to New York City), and Robert Pershing Foster (Monroe, Louisiana to Los Angeles). Three very different people with different stories over different decades, but these three humanize the scholarly research Wilkerson weaves into her tales. On a personal note, Ida Mae Gladney's story on the Chicago migration was particularly meaningful to me. My own maternal grandparents were first generation Polish immigrants in Chicago and lived on the South side of Chicago with my mother and her sisters in an apartment complex occupied by blacks and various eastern European immigrants. My grandparents, aunts and my mother were able to save up and purchase a house in the suburb of Cicero in 1951. Cicero was mainly comprised at that time of Polish, Slav, Czech and Italian first and second generation immigrants who themselves had fled the cramped low income housing of South Chicago. That same year, a college-educated World War II veteran named Harvey Clark, who happened to be black, tried to move his family from a Chicago tenement to a more spacious apartment in Cicero. When Mr. Clark tried to move his family into the apartment, it touched off an ugly race riot in Cicero, which ended with the apartment building being set afire and all of his belongings burned. It has always been fascinating to me how immigrants turn on the immigrants that follow them. http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_ev... My grandparents, aunts and my mother moved into their home in Cicero one month after that event, only blocks away. I had no idea this had ever happened!! I fell down a rabbit hole and spent quite a bit of time poking around the history of that event. One of my favorite discoveries was that the daughter of Mr. Clark, Michele Clark, went on to become the first black female network TV reporter - driven, perhaps, by what she lived through in her youth: http://mije.org/mmcsi/general/first-b... But I digress - just one of the many, many fascinating tidbits that consumed me as I absorbed this book. I learned so much. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. Educating, illuminating and heart wrenching. Highly recommend.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    With the turn of each page, I wished there was one to replace it. The book was written to document the Great Migration, when approximately six million African Americans fled the South to live in other parts of the country. But it captures so much more than that. I did not understand the enormity of this movement, until I read this statistic: Before the Great Migration only 10% of African Americans lived outside of the South. After the Great Migration, approximately 47% did. As the author so eloq With the turn of each page, I wished there was one to replace it. The book was written to document the Great Migration, when approximately six million African Americans fled the South to live in other parts of the country. But it captures so much more than that. I did not understand the enormity of this movement, until I read this statistic: Before the Great Migration only 10% of African Americans lived outside of the South. After the Great Migration, approximately 47% did. As the author so eloquently stated, “ It was the first big step the nations servant class ever took without asking.” Thoroughly researched and impeccably pulled together, The Warmth of Other Suns contains more African American history than I learned in all of my K-12 years combined. While lost in this book, I came to admire, cheer for, and feel for the 3 individuals whose stories are beautifully woven into the overarching theme. With each of them sometimes joyfully and sometimes painfully reliving the details of their own decisions to make the migration, it was not possible for me to put this book down before knowing how their lives ultimately turned out. This book highlights the efforts put forth to end the migration and the rude awakening once migrants learned that even after the journey, things would not be easy. Those making the trek by train were free to move between cars for colored passengers and non-colored passengers only after mid-trip, when the lines dividing the North and the South were crossed. Those driving, after determining they were too tired to drive any more, were forced to fall in line behind other cars along the side of the road to rest, because motels were not made available for them to sleep. After reading that some individuals were brought to tears while recalling the details of their journey, my threshold for empathizing increased 1000 fold. Something about the expression, “Just get over it” no longer sits right with me. People do not harbor pain with memories for 50 years because they can just get over it. Even if I read another 5000 books in my lifetime, when it’s all said and done, The Warmth of Other Suns will for sure make my list of the best books I've ever read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Excellent history of the movement of American blacks out of the southern states and into the north and west of the U.S. to escape the impact of the continuing Jim Crow laws on every facet of their lives. Wilkerson has found three exemplars of this internal migration who individually moved to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, three of the popular points due to railway lines and highways. Using these three individuals we learn some of the reasons black citizens without rights decided to make thi Excellent history of the movement of American blacks out of the southern states and into the north and west of the U.S. to escape the impact of the continuing Jim Crow laws on every facet of their lives. Wilkerson has found three exemplars of this internal migration who individually moved to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, three of the popular points due to railway lines and highways. Using these three individuals we learn some of the reasons black citizens without rights decided to make this major move, leaving all they knew behind, including their extended families. Much that was presented here was new to me---I didn't know the full extent of the Jim Crow laws on the daily life of all black people in the south. Nor did I realize the difficulty of actually leaving the south behind. It seems like a different world from that in which I live. The only fault I found with the book is the frequent repetition which I have seen mentioned elsewhere. It seems intended at times, to stress a point, as an accent. At other times it seems as if the author is writing for a casual reader who may just be dipping into the book at odd points. It does seem occasionally excessive, especially when the same anecdote is being repeated for the third or fourth time for no discernible reason. This does not add to an already strong story. All in all, highly recommended as very educational and readable.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Another great book club book. This was such a good book. Over 1,000 people were interviewed for this book. But ultimately the stories of 3 individuals are told. Amazing research. This book is about the mass migration from the south that changed the face of American. This is not a light book. It is heavy in so many ways. But oh is it good. Such a gifted and talented writer. This clearly was a work of love. Ten years in the making/researching. Isable Wilkerson has created a Masterpiece with this b Another great book club book. This was such a good book. Over 1,000 people were interviewed for this book. But ultimately the stories of 3 individuals are told. Amazing research. This book is about the mass migration from the south that changed the face of American. This is not a light book. It is heavy in so many ways. But oh is it good. Such a gifted and talented writer. This clearly was a work of love. Ten years in the making/researching. Isable Wilkerson has created a Masterpiece with this book. I highly recommend this book. I love books that not only educate me but make me think and feel. This book stays with you. See more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    When construction in California came to a halt around 1995, my husband, who worked in construction building homes as well as plumbing them, was out of work. So, we decided to buy a trailer and travel the U.S., stopping to look for work. We ended up in Mississippi, just across the Tennessee border from Memphis. After being in Mississippi for 9 months, I couldn’t wait to leave. The racism was terrible, to put it mildly. My husband had warned me, but I didn’t listen. There was work in Mississippi, When construction in California came to a halt around 1995, my husband, who worked in construction building homes as well as plumbing them, was out of work. So, we decided to buy a trailer and travel the U.S., stopping to look for work. We ended up in Mississippi, just across the Tennessee border from Memphis. After being in Mississippi for 9 months, I couldn’t wait to leave. The racism was terrible, to put it mildly. My husband had warned me, but I didn’t listen. There was work in Mississippi, and my sister lived there. Good reasons to not listen. My husband found a job in Tunica building casinos on river boats along the Mississippi river. Mississippi was much like the song, “Mister and Mississippi” that I sang as a child: I can't recall my mother I don't remember dad Mister and Mississippi was all I ever had Oh! I was born to wander Oh! I was born to roam And Mister and Mississippi Made me feel at home. My cradle was the river My school a river boat My teacher was a gambler The slickest one a float My teacher was a gambler The slickest one a float He taught me not to gamble On a petti coat. Oh! I was born to wander I was born to roam And Mister and Mississippi Made me feel at home. No, it wasn’t like that at all because it didn’t feel like home. Home is warm and comfortable. Home is where you feel safe and secure. Home is a lot of things to me, but it is never in the south. Because I was white, other whites felt that it was okay to use the “N” word in front of me, and I was too timid to tell them what I felt. They used the “N” word so much that it felt like they had eye gnats around their eyes, gnats they couldn’t see but really bugged them. And while the blacks bugged them to death in their own minds, that is, I was bugged to death by the whites. I didn’t understand Mississippi. I was a foreigner as far as I could tell. I recall being in a McDonald restaurant and hearing the person behind the counter put down blacks. “Blacks” was not the word he used. The put down was that they had voted for Bill Clinton and how stupid they were, etc. I remember saying, “There is nothing racist about you,” when a woman, who was sitting down eating her meal, told me to be careful because I could start a race riot. I also remember being told by a Realtor that we should always go in person when looking for a house to rent so the owner could see that we were white. Like I said, we lasted 9 months and just wanted to get out of there. I had two black women friends that went to the same Buddhist group that I attended, which is where I met them. One of them had lived in Portland, Oregon but came back home. I asked her why, telling her that I couldn’t stand the racism here. She said that at least here she knew what people thought of her, but in Oregon they practiced political correct, so she never knew where she really stood. I felt that I would rather not know where I stood. Just be kind and civil. We left Mississippi, but it was no better in the panhandle of Florida, so we left there too after several months, too. And as I write this I think now of California’s political correctness: I never knew that some of my friends there were racists. I assumed they thought like me. Then the bigly man in Washington made political correctness not okay. People could speak out. These friends must have thought that I thought as they did. I was shocked and disappointed by the things they had said. I left them just as I had left Mississippi and Florida. As for this book, I had never known that the blacks left the south beginning in 1915 through 1970. I can see why. I just don’t see why they continue to stay to this day because I don’t think it is all that much better now, but actually it is way better than how hit was during slavery. It just could not make me stay. This beautifully written and somewhat poetically written book was hard to put down. It was so well written and informative, and if it hadn’t won the Pulitzer Prize, it should have. And at least the author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. It was much more than an historical novel, for the author wove stories about three black families who had fled the south. You lived their lives from the moment they left to the day they passed away. But did the blacks find the warmth of other suns? Yes, to a large degree. Still, so much more has to be done to make people of color feel the comfort that they deserve, as the song “Mister and Mississippi” figuratively says: I love a tiny village A quiet country town A house, a little garden With kiddies runnin' 'round You'd be a faithful husband I'd be a trusty friend Until I heard that steamboat Comin' 'round the bend

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Through page 72: I am finding this book both intellectually interesting and emotionally gripping. That is exactly what I have been looking for. The book focuses on the lives of three blacks: Ida Mae who emigrated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937, George who fled from Florida to NY in 1945 and finally Robert Pershing who left in 1953 seeking to establish himself in California. The book follow these three individual and others for 100 years, During two world wars, the Depression and the events Through page 72: I am finding this book both intellectually interesting and emotionally gripping. That is exactly what I have been looking for. The book focuses on the lives of three blacks: Ida Mae who emigrated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937, George who fled from Florida to NY in 1945 and finally Robert Pershing who left in 1953 seeking to establish himself in California. The book follow these three individual and others for 100 years, During two world wars, the Depression and the events that will lead to the crumbling of the Jim Crow laws and the southern caste system. I want to be emotionally moved; only in this way can I come to understand their experiences. Along the way I want to learn how America has been impacted by black history. I am not disappointed so far, but wait...... here is what I think after reading more and more and more: I did not finish this book, quite simply because what I want is to sink into another world. This book doesn't fit that bill. I read more than half, so I feel I can tell you what I observed, to help you decide if you want to read it. Although the book focuses on three individuals, as stated above, there are so many other stories, details and examples of the injustices experienced by the blacks in the US beginning at the turn of the 19th century that I became distracted and could not focus on the three individuals. I know this sounds bizarre, but the book was too comprehensive. Someone is sure to protest and say that all these facts, all these injustices must be stated so the reader understands how it really was for Blacks living under the Jim Crow laws. Of course such a protest has some truth, but you can overdo anything. All the injustices listed, one after the other, were hard to swallow. The excessive details became distracting. The historical sections thrown in between the sections on the lives of Ida, George and Robert were distracting. In addition, I found myself less interested in Robert than in the other two. So there goes one third of my interest out the window. I feel the book should have focused more on the three individuals and skipped some of the other historical details. I am not saying I disliked this book. I am not saying it isn't terribly interesting, but it didn't draw me in. That was the kind of book I was searching for. Some of the events told are horrible, and thus moving, but the historical sections are comprised of facts and histories and events piled on top of each other. In these sections the reader is not shown, but told and told and told. You will learn a lot from the book, but it is still predominantly a "history book". Other history books have pulled me in more. A superb history book, now that I cannot put down. Before you pick up this book be sure you are in the mood for a long, detailed, in-depth recounting of black people's history. Maybe this book does deserve four stars, but it didn't fit what I thought I would get; I gave it three.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Taryn

    I was not at all sure I wanted to read this book. On the surface, it's a tough sell: 600 pages about the Great Migration. So, like, a really long book about people moving house? In what world would that be interesting? Here's the thing, though: Isabel Wilkerson is a special kind of writer and researcher. She's not regurgitating facts. She's telling a story. Three stories, actually, of three very different people who all journeyed from the southern United States to the north in the mid-20th centur I was not at all sure I wanted to read this book. On the surface, it's a tough sell: 600 pages about the Great Migration. So, like, a really long book about people moving house? In what world would that be interesting? Here's the thing, though: Isabel Wilkerson is a special kind of writer and researcher. She's not regurgitating facts. She's telling a story. Three stories, actually, of three very different people who all journeyed from the southern United States to the north in the mid-20th century. And, of course, their stories are all a lot more complicated than just picking up and moving from one part of the country to another. Before reading The Warmth of Other Suns, I had heard the term “Jim Crow” but had no real idea of the horrifying reality behind it. I was grossly uneducated about white oppression of African Americans post-slavery. I had no idea I had so many gaping holes in my education. Even the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., beloved by elementary school teachers everywhere as the safe, unobjectionable way to teach the history of the civil rights movement and which Wilkerson touches upon through the lenses of her three subjects, was not nearly as non-violent and passive as I expected. This is the kind of book that is perfect for audio. Sitting down with 600 pages of non-fiction in print can be daunting, but listening to an hour or two a day isn't scary. Narrator Robin Miles is a skilled reader, and brings all three individuals to life with expertly executed accents. I could have listened to her interpretation of Ida Mae's silky Mississippi drawl all day long. Ultimately, I'm so glad I invested the time and mental energy The Warmth of Other Suns required of me, and if you choose to do the same, I can assure you, you won't regret it. More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Isabel Wilkerson is my new Hero!!! She wrote a remarkable historical epic!! (Ambitious)...Over 10 years of research. The stories are heart wrenching. She gives us an in depth education about the Great American Migration in this country ---and manages to keep us completely engaged from start to finish. I admit --I was a little worried that this book would be too long ---I would 'drift-off' pretty soon (I was thinking---"I'll skip some parts") >>> but I couldn't do it.... I read EVERY WORD. I also Isabel Wilkerson is my new Hero!!! She wrote a remarkable historical epic!! (Ambitious)...Over 10 years of research. The stories are heart wrenching. She gives us an in depth education about the Great American Migration in this country ---and manages to keep us completely engaged from start to finish. I admit --I was a little worried that this book would be too long ---I would 'drift-off' pretty soon (I was thinking---"I'll skip some parts") >>> but I couldn't do it.... I read EVERY WORD. I also lost a couple of days of 'real-life' in the outside world ---(but I'll get it back) --- Things I got from this story: A much more understanding of the Jim Crow -racial caste system in the South. I had the honor and privilege to read about REAL STORIES --of real people in this country and what they REALLY went through. AND--- One must ask him or herself??? WHY the label "Migration"? --- (I don't want to give anything away). I LOVED the way Isabel Wilkerson wrote this book (for people like me) ---who were asleep --missing holes in their education ---She was able to keep me interested yet make a profound difference. I cried in several places --- (I just was so so sorry) With over 600 pages the only time I 'laughed' (as in OUT LOUD --a little relief maybe?) --was when sweet potatoes were on the loose on a train. My guess is ---many people (people I know anyway) will run away from reading this book....(fear it). TOO LONG they will say....(too many other books to read, etc.) --- but I'm still with tears in my eyes over the extraordinary work-dedication-skill-mastery-etc. that it took for Isabel to produce this book--- It was a-page-Turning book ---(I can't imagine it was an easy task to pull off)! I hope people read this book. READ it as if ---(you've all the time in the world). Don't worry ---YOU'LL finish it! Then you've give yourself 5 stars. (proud that you are feeling what you are feeling ---knowing a little more of what you know ---Thanks to this beautiful author)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    It's quite intimidating to try and craft a review for this amazing book. I have a much harder time reviewing a book that I adore, than books that I liked. This wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it is the book that has affected me the most in terms of the foundations of my own family.  This book unmasked me and taught me how much I didn't know about where I came from.    On its face this is a history book about a period in time in American history between WWI and the Vietnam War.  What's st It's quite intimidating to try and craft a review for this amazing book. I have a much harder time reviewing a book that I adore, than books that I liked. This wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it is the book that has affected me the most in terms of the foundations of my own family.  This book unmasked me and taught me how much I didn't know about where I came from.    On its face this is a history book about a period in time in American history between WWI and the Vietnam War.  What's strange is that until Wilkerson put together this book; there was very little recognition or acknowledgement of the migration during the time. It's strange because it was huge (approximately 5 million people).  It takes a tremendous amount of self-delusion and obtuseness to miss this phenomenon…and yet the idea of a huge population shift in the US is a sort of footnote in history.  Glossed over or superficially covered as a reaction to the industrialization of the country towards war.  Enter Isabel Wilkerson with a different take.  Actually the population shifts were due to untenable conditions in the South as well as huge labor shortages and promises of prosperity in the north. History remembers the bus boycotts in Alabama but not the legions of people that fled the conditions in Alabama.  Remembers the heroics but not the convention or the actual state of affairs.   Wilkerson defines the movement by chronicling the stories of 3 very different (and in many ways very similar) families and circumstances.  Through the telling of the stories, she weaves events and details that add historical context and gravitas.  The is the story of Ida Mae Gladney, the sharecroppers wife from Alabama migrating in the late 1930s; George Swanson Starling an educated fruit picker from Florida migrating in the mid-1940s.  And Robert Pershing Foster, a WWII doctor immigrating in the early 1950s.  Each of her subjects started in a different area of the South and relocated to a different area of the country.  The racial attitudes in the country and fights for civil rights are well documented in history.  Wilkerson choose to investigate the similarities and differences to each of the regions that her subjects relocated as well as highlight some of the differences in their points (and time frames) of origins.  She also examines what happened to the people left behind. How the great migration inevitably spawned innovation in the South to make up for the labor shortage. She chronicled how people in the South were duped, cajoled and threatened into staying. An interesting point that Wilkerson makes is that much of the technological innovation in the South is the result of the loss of cheap labor. It's hard not to be cynical. The only way a broad section of people could be pulled kicking and screaming from terrorizing, sublimating and oppressing an entire race of people based on skin color alone was not ethics or human decency. It was the prospect of plummeting wealth. With the benefit of hindsight, the century between Reconstruction and the end of the Great Migration perhaps may be seen as a necessary stage of upheaval. It was a transition from an era when one race owned another; to an era when the dominant class gave up ownership but kept control over the people it once had owned, at all costs, using violence even; to the eventual acceptance of the servant caste into the mainstream.Whoa Wilkerson, this is a chilling statement. Shades of this mindset are still plentiful in today's culture. There were quite a few shortcomings in the book as well. The sheer scope of the subject matter makes it difficult to chronicle adequately. There are some very major events that occurred during this time that are glossed over or completely left out of the narrative. By allowing 3 people to lead the narrative, there is a treatment of the subjects that inadvertently elevates their standing and character. Wilkerson glosses over and avoids the flaws specifically in Robert Pershing Foster and George Swanson Starling, only showcasing the flaws to point out the mindset, culture or environment not the shortcomings of the men. Wilkerson never directly addresses these flaws (Starling abandonment of his wife, Fosters implied drug use, gambling, and narcisism). The characterization of Ida Mae Gladney had the opposite effect. There were no cracks in the façade, which I think is an unfair characterization. But the main issue I had with Ida Mae was that she had very little story of her own. Most of Ida Mae's story centered around her issues raising her family and keeping a home. Her place in the world was as a wife and mother. In my view, the black woman's experience was not as chronicled as the men. A part of me acknowledges that there is something to the timeframe and culture that the story was told. But we didn't get to know much about Ida Mae, her desires, her dreams. Perhaps that's a testimony in itself to how black women were viewed the world and their options. Still, it would have been interesting if Wilkerson could have found a black female whose story was different from or in addition to matriarch. In a year when Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race is a huge success, we know such women existed; just not from this book. But in comparison to the actual story told, these issues are minor. Wilkerson has written a stunning book. After several passages in the book, I frequently started questioning my mother about our family's migration journey. For me, Ida Mae Gladney could easily have been Willie Mae my mother's mother. Per her birth certificate, my mother was born in Blacksher, Alabama in the late 1930s. The town of Blacksher is but a dot maps. There is no real record of the town. It is according to the 1980 census, "A populated place that is not a census designated or incorporated place having an official federally recognized name." I have surmised that the area name is based on a man name John Uriah Blacksher a lumber magnate in the area. She has memories of her and her brothers playing in the fields outdoors and her father working in the lumber yards. She doesn't remember entirely when they migrated to the eastern Ohio area. My grandfather Jack worked in the steel mills. Her earliest memory of Ohio is of an aircraft flying overhead. She remembers it terrifying her and there wasn't anything like it in Alabama. I think this puts her at around 5-6 years old (early 40s). She is the oldest of 7 children, but only 3 were born in Alabama. She doesn't know why they migrated to eastern Ohio. She recalls that they owned property in Alabama at the time that they left. As a testimony to how life changing this book is I will say that one year ago, I knew very little of my family background on my mother's side. This book helps me to fill the gaps with hope and some knowledge of the ages. I'm happy that my mother is alive and well to tell me stories and recount some family history. Though I know quite a bit about her life, I know little about my grandparents' lives. What Wilkerson has done here is to connect me to American history and my family history. It's hard to write what that means to me. My gr friend Shannon once wrote that after reading the last page, she closed the book and just hugged it. That is how it felt for me too. 5 Amazing Stars Read on my kindle

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rick Riordan

    This is one of those rare history books that makes history as fresh and relevant as local headlines, and as gripping as a novel. I'll admit that even with my background as an American history teacher, I didn't know much about the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, during which millions of African Americans left the Jim Crow South for the North and the West, permanently changing the demographics of the U.S. Wilkerson follows the lives of three such people in different decades, while This is one of those rare history books that makes history as fresh and relevant as local headlines, and as gripping as a novel. I'll admit that even with my background as an American history teacher, I didn't know much about the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, during which millions of African Americans left the Jim Crow South for the North and the West, permanently changing the demographics of the U.S. Wilkerson follows the lives of three such people in different decades, while augmenting their stories with anecdotes from many sources. The result is a riveting personal narrative, powerfully written, that may open your eyes (as it did mine) to part of our national history that needs much attention. Highly recommended to high school and above.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Monica **can't read fast enough**

    I simply don't have the appropriate words to relate the immense impact that The Warmth of Other Suns has had on me. I consider this massive book absolutely required reading for everyone that is interested in the history and experiences of African Americans. It should be required reading for every high school student. I could not have read this book at a better time in my life. With the imminent fall out of our recent elections here in America, it is vital that we remember the horrors of the many I simply don't have the appropriate words to relate the immense impact that The Warmth of Other Suns has had on me. I consider this massive book absolutely required reading for everyone that is interested in the history and experiences of African Americans. It should be required reading for every high school student. I could not have read this book at a better time in my life. With the imminent fall out of our recent elections here in America, it is vital that we remember the horrors of the many injustices against African Americans. We have to know of the abuses and the aggression against a group of people whose only crime was being born black in America. We have to know about the overwhelming disenfranchisement of the people who were thought to be less than human. We have to see the moral and physical subjugation heaped upon an entire race of people that inevitably created systematic damage that is still being felt today. Wilkerson delivers not only facts and statistics that are staggering and disheartening, but she delivers them with heart while revealing the humanity of the people who were quite literally forced from their homes and away from their families. Oftentimes fleeing in the middle of the night, without a word that they were leaving for fear of being forcibly tethered to a land and culture that had no respect for them as human beings and didn't value their lives further than the manual labor that they could provide. How devastating must it have been for free men and women to continue to have to 'steal themselves away' as if they were doing wrong in wanting true freedom? To have to literally drop what they were doing and flee from the promise of a lynching because they demanded fair pay? These examples are all the more unbelievable for being absolutely true and are made gut-wrenchingly relatable in this book. The Warmth of Other Suns reads like family sagas and not at all like dry and disconnected historical facts. There are many instances in this book were I had to pause to fight back tears. The correlation to the lack of generational well being (forget generational wealth) to the injustices an abuses suffered by African Americans living in the south post Reconstruction, through Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights era, straight through modern times and spreading throughout our country is so staggering that it is painful to experience even through the pages of a book. How can a people expect to move each generation forward when the rules are constantly being rewritten in order to keep one subjugated? The lines are constantly being moved literally and figuratively. From the lines of social acceptance to the literal lines of voting districts to create the greatest and most harmful disenfranchisement of African Americans. So many obstacles are being placed to hamper progress and prosperity. I could so easily write pages on the impact that this book has had on me, but I'm reining myself in now! I'll wrap up by saying that The Warmth of Other Suns is a brilliantly engaging, heart wrenching, and thought provoking book. This should be required reading for every high school student in America. I'm buying copies of this book for both of my adult children immediately. Don't be afraid of the size of this book, it lends itself beautifully to being picked up and put down. I read this over a few weeks by just investing an hour or two at a time, along with longer stretches of reading, while still reading other books as well. This is not only going on my favorite reads list for the year, but of all time. I will be thinking of this book for months down the line. As an African American woman myself, The Warmth of Other Suns makes me once again, pause and be grateful for all of the people who came before me whose triumphs came through their suffering. I am eternally grateful for those people who fought, struggled, suffered, cried, and died for the privileges that I have now. Where you can find me: •(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)• Twitter: @MonlatReader Instagram: @readermonica Facebook: Monica Reeds Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    On a plane so review to come. In the meantime, now more than ever this book is required reading. Edited to add: In early July, there was an awful week when we watched video of (yet another, the 2nd in a week) Black man dying while men in uniform, having shot him, did nothing to help him, but instead ordered his girlfriend to keep her hands on the wheel, as her little girl, so heartbreakingly, offered useless comfort from the back seat and then we watched helpless as a sniper retaliated against o On a plane so review to come. In the meantime, now more than ever this book is required reading. Edited to add: In early July, there was an awful week when we watched video of (yet another, the 2nd in a week) Black man dying while men in uniform, having shot him, did nothing to help him, but instead ordered his girlfriend to keep her hands on the wheel, as her little girl, so heartbreakingly, offered useless comfort from the back seat and then we watched helpless as a sniper retaliated against officers in Dallas, killing 5, and our hearts - or mine at least - were so full and so bruised that it didn't seem possible to go on with the pain of this summer filled with "terror" of all kinds and an election that seems designed to do anything but alleviate this pain. Anyway, during that week, I went to the gym where I am wont to engage in long philosophical discussions with K., the middle-aged Black man that runs the place - conversations that usually touch on everything in the news BUT race. I didn't know how to say anything meaningful, so I just said, "I'm so sad and angry right now, and I can't even believe we're still here in 2016 and, most importantly, I can't imagine what you are going through". And he told me a lot of things about his life - about growing up in Louisiana, post-Jim Crow, but still in an era when only 2 black kids could be on the Little League team, and his getting on meant someone else being moved off. About being an avid golfer and getting stopped time and time again by NYC policemen who find a Black man with a golf bag sinister...even when he is one block from the golf course. About going to certain clubs in NY in the '80s to play squash as an invited guest, and being shown the service entrance. And intriguingly, to me as a reader, he told me that in this week of terrible renewed pain, he had been urging the young people in his family to read The Warmth of Other Suns. He told me that this book was a talisman to him, and he read it and re-read it when he was trying to make sense of race in America. I went home and ordered the book right away, and barely put it down for the entire week that followed. Did I know about Jim Crow? Sure I did, to a certain extent, but I knew about the heroes and heroines of the Civil Rights movement, and the more sensational moments of violence, and less about the wearing grinding horrific legal and factual subjection of Black people in every aspect of daily life. So too had the Great Migration merited a sentence or two in my American History II class, but there again, as is the wont in American History classes, it was presented triumphally, Black people pouring into the North to take well paid factory jobs. I didn't really know bupkus about the subject matter of this well-told and well-researched book. There are three things that made this book exceptional for me: First, Wilkerson found great subjects, and the variety in the time and place and manner of their birth/migration/life out of the South made the book very rich. Second, she's a great story teller - the book is almost cinematic in some of its cliff hangers. Third, her repeated ties between the Great Migration and the immigration journeys taken by people like my great-grandparents, also fleeing hostile and often murderous legal regimes, helped me root the book more firmly in my own emotional experience. So, the question I still wrestle with is why did K. tell me that this book is his talisman? I haven't had a chance to ask him yet. Maybe it comforts him to know that we as a nation, and his people as a people, are on a journey out of a very dark place, and it shouldn't surprise us, even if it deeply saddens us, that we haven't gotten to the end of that journey yet. I'm not sure. I'm only grateful that he got me to finally read this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Warmth of Other Suns took my breath away. I found myself literally gasping - with fury and shock and sorrow as I listened. I wish this magnificent, monumental book about the "great migration" of Blacks from the South to the North, could be read by every American. Wilkerson combines scholarly research and her personal experience as the daughter of migrants, with compelling narratives of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who left Mississippi in 1937 for Chicago, George Swanson Starling who m The Warmth of Other Suns took my breath away. I found myself literally gasping - with fury and shock and sorrow as I listened. I wish this magnificent, monumental book about the "great migration" of Blacks from the South to the North, could be read by every American. Wilkerson combines scholarly research and her personal experience as the daughter of migrants, with compelling narratives of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who left Mississippi in 1937 for Chicago, George Swanson Starling who migrated from Florida to New York in 1945 and Robert Pershing Foster who left Louisiana in 1953 for Los Angeles. I thought I knew about this segment of American history but there is so much that I didn't really grasp until reading this book. The breadth and depth of Wilkerson's epic work --it is just stupendous! The first part, set in the Jim Crow South, hit me especially hard emotionally (as did Richard Wright's Black Boy). I listened to the 23 hours of audio (read by my favorite narrator Robin Miles) slowly over a few weeks, needing time to absorb it. This unforgettable book has profoundly deepened my understanding of American history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    The Warmth of Other Suns is a monumental book both in size (over 600 pages) and in scope – decades (arguably centuries) of history. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson structures the book as an oral history and ethnography of the “Great Migration”, when millions of African-Americans left their birthplaces in the American South and moved to northern and western cities in other regions of the United States in the 20th century. Three individuals share the stage – the book centers on The Warmth of Other Suns is a monumental book both in size (over 600 pages) and in scope – decades (arguably centuries) of history. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson structures the book as an oral history and ethnography of the “Great Migration”, when millions of African-Americans left their birthplaces in the American South and moved to northern and western cities in other regions of the United States in the 20th century. Three individuals share the stage – the book centers on their backgrounds, their families and their struggles through their entire life span. While each person was from a different area, and migrated at different times, their story is a microcosm of the larger Migration: --Ida Mae Gladney, born in Mississippi as a cotton sharecropper, leaving in her early adulthood for Milkwaukee, Wisconsin, and settling and starting a family in Chicago, Illinois; --George Starling, a citrus plantation worker in central Florida, leaving to avoid the angry mob, moves to New York City and works as a railroad porter for nearly four decades; --Robert Foster, from Louisiana, the son of school teachers and a graduate of Morehouse College, a medical doctor and Army veteran, who later moves to Los Angeles, California. There are hundreds of stories within each of their lives. As I discussed this with a small group yesterday, it was evident that the stories struck people in many different ways. Each person had a story that “resonated” in their mind. While there were many, the story of Robert’s long drive (pre-Interstate) across the desert to California, was one of the most allegorical to me - running away from the South, entering a "no-man's-land" and still encountering the same problems he had at home. Wilkerson weaves in and out with other key points in 20th-century history: there is significant detail of Jim Crow laws, mob lynchings and maimings, sharecropping politics and the economics of cotton and citrus, the foundations of the civil rights movement. We also get a look at the dynamics of labor history in industrial cities, housing policies (“white flight”, “black busting”,“redlining”), the class structures within the communities. Wilkerson’s research is impeccable, and I learned so much from this book. I feel like I am still learning from it after reading it - still learning as I listen to the news today, observing the ways that cities and counties are gerrymandered and redistricted, that schools are closed, that social services are defunded, and voting rights are limited.

  30. 4 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    "'If all of their dream[sic] does not come true,' the Chicago Defender wrote at the start of the Great Migration, 'enough will come to pass to justify their actions.'" I remember about 8 years ago, I was helping my maternal-grandfather clean the graveyard of the family church in central Virginia that my mother's family belongs to. As I was raking-up over some of the graves, I noticed that a particular section of them were of people who died during the 1910s-1920s and that I did not recognize the "'If all of their dream[sic] does not come true,' the Chicago Defender wrote at the start of the Great Migration, 'enough will come to pass to justify their actions.'" I remember about 8 years ago, I was helping my maternal-grandfather clean the graveyard of the family church in central Virginia that my mother's family belongs to. As I was raking-up over some of the graves, I noticed that a particular section of them were of people who died during the 1910s-1920s and that I did not recognize the family names at all. My grandfather informed me that most of those families moved out of Amherst County years ago. I was curious when he said, as laconic as possible, that "they simply got tired of living here and left," and that was all he would say about it. As I finished getting those dead leaves off those dead people, the thought of those folks and families stayed with me--stays with me still. They were the beginning of the greatest population shift in modern U.S. history. Of course, this wasn't totally lost on my grandfather as his younger brothers would be among the last people to participate in that mass exodus of the American South. It would be called The Great Migration. [A quick glossary for this review: I plan to change this up a little. Instead of using quotations in this review as I usually do, I am going to list songs that relate to The Great Migration--either about the folks on the move or by them. Though it has never been explored, I am surprised how much music these travelers made or had made about them. Also, whenever possible, when I name a person who left the South, I will list their origin and the year they left in parenthesis.] Sweet Home Chicago by Robert Johnson That this is one of the all-time great history-books ever written is beyond doubt now. Journalist Isabel Wilkerson, had already had her name in the history-books for being the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism in 1994, she then decided to write a history of her parents’ generation which quickly became a wider history of The Great Migration. Between the end of the American Civil War and 1914, 90 percent of the African-Americans in the United States of America lived in the American South, the region that most of their African ancestors had been shipped to since August of 1619. Beginning with WWI, 6-7 million would leave the South for the Northeast, Mid-West and West. Some would go as far as Hawaii and Alaska for the sole objective of citizenship-rights. They left their old-country--their "patria" of the American South--some until the adequate enforcement of the 14th & 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, but most for good. It would radically change the whole country and every African-American family existing today are either children of these people or at least has them in their family. My paternal-grandmother's parents were a part of the first wave to leave the South (from North Carolina), though they did not go North proper, but settled into the "gateway city" for Black Southerners of the Atlantic-Coast, Washington, D.C., where my grandmother and father were born. Washington was a gateway city because though it was not as harsh as other Southern cities, it was still a Jim Crow city and it had as many people leaving it as coming into it. The "proto-Migration" of black folks from the Deep South that started after the American Civil War usually saw Washington, D.C. as the primary destination. The weird thing about academics when it comes to naming something....it's not always accurate. This is one of those things as the "migrants" were not actually migrants. When they left, they left for good. If they moved again it was usually to another "receiving station" of the Migration such as the Duckworth family, who left the South for Chicago and then left Chicago for the Los Angeles suburb of Compton. Anywhere, but back to the dystopian-hell that was the South. When the phenomenon was happening, there was no adequate or accurate name to describe it, but now there is. Immigration Blues by Duke Ellington (Washington D.C.; 1923) According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees what we would roughly define these 6+ million people as are internally-displaced persons (IDPs). The UNHCR report Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement defines IDPs as "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border." These were people who, despite having citizenship, were greatly persecuted by their home country. It was a fact celebrated by many a politician in the South and Border States and not taken seriously by those outside said states. Dear Old Southland by the Noble Sissle Orchestra feat. Sidney Bechet (New Orleans; 1919) This movement of IDPs from the South lasted from the beginning of the First World War and lasted until the end of the Vietnam War. It occurred in 3 waves: the first from 1915 to 1938, the second from 1941 to 1952, the last from 1953 to 1975. The book forms a narrative around three people who made the trip out of the South during the three waves. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, who left Chickasaw County, Mississippi in 1937; George Swanson Starling, who left Eustis, Florida in 1945; and Cpt. Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, who left Monroe, Louisiana in 1953. They were all of different economic-classes and would never meet each other and would all go to different cities at different times. They are some amazing characters. Move On Up A Little Higher, Pts. 1 & 2 Mahalia Jackson (New Orleans; 1927) Ida Mae Gladney is the true heroine of this book. She was as close to a real-life Alyosha Karamazov as you can get. Her life in the South was in the notoriously brutal regime of Mississippi as a sharecropper along with her husband. She was not particularly good at the job, but her husband George made up for it. The incident that saw them leave was the brutal beating of her cousin-in-law for being accused of stealing a chicken that was not stolen. Living For The City by Stevie Wonder The tragic George Starling. After reading this book, Starling's life inspired me to read some Franz Kafka. It was as if Kafka and Euripides were given free-rein over the man's life. He and his family lived in Florida as orange-grove pickers. He aspired to be a chemist and wanted a college degree. This was hard, given the disdain that whites have towards the idea of African-Americans getting a college education. He managed two years of college before being cut-off by his father who saw no point in a black man getting an education in the South. This led...to a series of unfortunate decisions on Starling's part. He found himself attempting unionize workers in the orange grove where he worked, which worked for a time, then certain workers, informed on him to the white management (in a style that would have made Stalin proud) and Starling found himself sneaking out of town hours before he was to be lynched in the orange-grove. What Would I Do Without You by Ray Charles (Albany, Ga; 1948) Robert Foster, the Epicurean. Foster was the son of a lower-middle class educator in Monroe, LA. That makes him the wealthiest and educated of the three profiled. He was driven-religiously by the fact that he did not feel he should be disrespected just because of what he looked like. He became a graduate of Morehouse College (and medical school) and married into the family of one Rufus Clement, the Headmaster of Atlanta University who infamously disposed of W.E.B. Du Bois from the university over their ideological differences. Clement and Foster were never to get along, because of the former's disdain of the others desire to leave the South. When it became apparent that any attempt to expand his practice in Monroe would be met with hostile resistance from white doctors coupled with his experience being stationed in allied-occupied Austria meant that the decision to go to Los Angeles was decided for Dr. Foster. Hobo Blues by John Lee Hooker (Tutwiler, Miss; 1943). John Lee Hooker is an interesting case. His musical career spanned from Memphis to his time wandering out of the South into Los Angeles and his long-term home of Detroit, before spending his final years in southern California. He wrote songs about his life-long journey through the country throughout his life. Deciding to leave the South is one thing, the leaving part was dangerous. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments had made African-Americans citizens, but the destruction of Reconstruction and Plessy v. Ferguson introduced de facto serfdom in the American South and second-class citizenship in the United States as a whole. When the first black folks left the South, it garnered little notice, but when WWI came to an end and the IDPs kept going, it set off panic in & out of the South. Southern oligarchs did not want their serfs leaving as they could be under-paid or put in debt-peonage quite easily. Whites in the North & Mid-west, many of who themselves were immigrants, did not want to compete with, go to school with or live in the same neighborhoods as African-Americans. The South would intensify the vagrancy laws of the "black codes" and arrest and imprison any African-Americans caught in train stations or trains, while cities outside of (and inside of) the former-Confederacy & border states would use restrictive covenants, mass incarceration, mob-violence and de facto racial segregation that one observes in most parts of Latin America. None of this worked because, whites underestimated the desire of African-Americans to be treated like equal citizens & African Americans were already in the country as citizens. These were free citizens, not fugitive slaves (though they were treated as such). Arrington High may have the most extraordinary story of his escape from the South, having to be broken out of an insane asylum in Mississippi (he was in there because he advocated integration publicly. Not joking) and shipped to Chicago...in a coffin. Henry Box Brown-style. For literary references to the White Southerners' view of The Great Migration, I recommend The Displaced Person by Flannery O'Connor & The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Ida Mae and George took the train to Chicago and New York City, respectively. Foster did something different. Robert Foster decided to take the most dangerous car ride an existence. through the Southwest, detour to Mexico for tequila, and go to Los Angeles. Foster, mistakenly believed that Jim Crow stopped in Texas, and did not assume to look for any safe places for blacks in New Mexico, Arizona or Nevada. The Plessy ruling applied to all-50 states, so the Southwest and certain mid-west states had the same apartheid-laws as the South. His trip to see friends in Texas and his tequila-run in Mexico would become costly mistakes when it became clear that no motel or hotel in New Mexico or Arizona would take him. He stopped when he could, but ended up driving 20-hour stretches with little sleep nearly dying on several occasions from hallucinating while in the desert. I can't do it justice...this story is worth the price of the book alone. The success he found in Los Angeles afterwards, including some famous clientele, was well-earned. I won't tell anymore about the profilies than that, because I want this book to be read by you and not just you reading me. Hide nor Hair by Ray Charles. If you were going to listen to one song mentioned in this review, this one is the most important one to listen to. The fate of the people in this book was as multifaceted as you could imagine. All wanted the promise land, but not all would get it. The establishing of bases in places like South-Central, South-Side and Harlem gave African-Americans still in the South a support system, an influx of money to support families in the "Old Country," and it would spread African-American culture around the world, given that LA and NYC were the main cultural centers for spreading American culture outside the USA. Domestically, southern food, religion, music and politics would become truly national. New Orleans Jazz went to New York City; Mississippi Blues went to Chicago and became Chicago Blues. The arts and sciences would benefit as never before. Away from the caste system of the South African-Americans could innovate as any citizens did and play a role in the country's destiny. Ida Mae Gladney would cast her first vote in the swing-state of Illinois and be part of the 2% difference that re-elected Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. An IDP named Frank Marshall Davis (Arkansas City, KS; 1927) would find his efforts at being a radical artist stymied in the continental USA, during the Cold War and would move to Honolulu, Hawaii and become an accidental mentor to a young Barack Obama, trying to understand his place in the great drama of the color-line. Tennessee by Arrested Development I could type three reviews worth of prose on this book and subject given I have very near-history on it being related to and descended from that 6-7 million people driven-out of the South because of its wanton cruelties. The book is named for a line from Richard Wright (Roxie, Miss.; 1927) in his book about this very subject Black Boy: "I was taking a part of the South To transplant in alien soil... Respond to the warmth of other suns And, perhaps, to bloom." If one had to name all the names of these people and their kids it would drive one insane. I no longer clean graveyards and my father and his father-in-law are dead. But the memories and legacies of those who went to those other suns, grew in those other suns, and benefited from the success of those under the other suns endures. Recently we saw the death of one of these millions, Aretha Franklin (Memphis; 1944), who in January of 1972 gave a gospel performance at the New Missionary Temple Baptist Church for the "migrants" or "internally-displaced persons" living in Los Angeles. One of the songs sung was Precious Memories with James Cleveland, the son of Southerners, reminiscing back and hoping toward easier times. Times that may or may not ever exist, may or may not ever existed, but that they had to do their part to deliver on and honor. Most of the last survivors are dying-out--the youngest are in their 50s, this book was meant to put their history in their voice and not some distant academic's, as had previously been the case. Wilkerson had planned to take only 2 years off from journalism to promote the book, yet she is still in high demand over it which is amazing in itself. I liked her methodology, but was felt that her attempt at renaming certain terminology became distracting at times, though I got used to it. That the only "complaint" to be had. She does the sort of job you'd expect from a Pulitzer-winning journalist and her notes and sources are as incredible as the main text. So great a work cannot be praised enough. "Over the decades, perhaps the wrong questions have been asked about the Great Migration. Perhaps it is not a question of whether the migrants brought good or ill to the cities they fled to or were pushed or pulled to their destinations, but a question of how they summoned the courage to leave in the first place or how they found the will to press beyond the forces against them and the faith in a country that had rejected them for so long. By their actions, they did not cream the American Dream, they willed it into being by a definition of their own choosing. They did not ask to be accepted but declared themselves the Americans that perhaps few others recognized but that they had always been deep within their hearts."

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