The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)


“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 dream 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.” 

U.S.A. / 2010

This tour de force explores the history and impact of The Great Migration - the period between 1910 and 1970 when 6 MILLION Black American southerners left the violent south for the relatively more accepting north. What I love about Wilkerson's book (which I've been dying to read but haven't had the chance yet) is how she talks about The Great Migration as a fleeing and as a testament to our incredible strength as Black people in this fucked up country. Part of the (non-southern) Black American experience is going back "down south" to visit family either once a year or every couple summers. That's the farthest back a lot of us can go: the south. My immediate ancestors came from a tiny town called Desha in Arkansas. In the 1950s, they packed up everything, loaded up on a bus and came to Wisconsin. However, my southern experience happened in Mississippi, because after they came to Wisconsin, my great-grandparents moved to Mississippi! Very random, but they went back down south very ironically - because their son opened a doctor's office. Things come full circle in strange ways. Has anyone read this book? What's your Great Migration story? Where did you spend your summers?