In this bestselling, 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.
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
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.
MARK LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER
DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE FINALIST
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
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APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Chronicling one of the most underreported historical events of the 20th century, The Warmth of Other Suns is as sweeping and dramatic as the most cherished American novel—except every word of it is true. From the 1910s through the ’60s, over six million African Americans left the South, seeking hope and opportunity in cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Journalist Isabel Wilkerson lays out the story of the Great Migration with rich descriptions and a feeling of up-close intimacy. She focuses on the stories of three ordinary Southerners—a sharecropper’s wife, a farm worker, and a doctor—and interweaves their personal narratives with intriguing small details and big-picture observations about how this shift shaped our nation’s cultural, social, and political landscape. (Both rock ’n’ roll and Detroit’s auto boom were direct outgrowths!) This is the first in-depth look at this awe-inspiring change, and it’s historically fascinating and deeply emotional.
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.
Everyone needs to read this book. We’ve all known, at least I hope we do, the history of slavery and the still, all too common brutality of racists. However, to understand what it took to actually leave, to start fresh in what were akin to foreign territories hammers home how I’ve taken my easy, stable, simple and most definitely privileged status in life for granted.
Can’t say enough about his book! I loved it!