The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)
Isabel Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration, which included 6 million African Americans from about 1915 until around 1970 who left the American South. Wilkerson focuses on three families: Ida Mae Brandon Gladley of Chickasaw County, Miss., beginning in late October 1937; George Swanson Starling of Eustis, Fla., in 1931; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster of Monroe, La., in 1933. She tells the stories of these three families, scattered as they were from different parts of the South, as they chose to migrate from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western United States. In that way, she personalizes the Great Migration, putting faces on an innumerable mass of people.
With extensive research and powerful interviews, she gives us a history of decisions, choices, realities and acceptance of life that often was less than ideal even in the promised lands of the North or California. We also learn the poison of the South’s slavery and Jim Crow years metastasized to the North, Midwest and West as whites migrated from the South ahead of the African American migration. The reader also is introduced to structural/institutional racism and its costs to African American families who simply wanted to work, live free and raise a family.
I found it sad at times, sometimes even tragic, but a helpful beginning to gather an understanding of the African American experience in America.
For believers who want to know more about what lies beneath the racism of our nation, this is a good and timely book.
Michael R. Chancellor