The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
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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.
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER
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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.
prayed, “and the last out.” When the time had come, Ida Mae and little James and Velma and all that they could carry were loaded into a brother-in-law’s truck, and the three of them went to meet Ida Mae’s husband at the train depot in Okolona for the night ride out of the bottomland. 2 WILDWOOD, FLORIDA, APRIL 14, 1945 GEORGE SWANSON STARLING A MAN NAMED ROSCOE COLTON gave Lil George Starling a ride in his pickup truck to the train station in Wildwood through the fruit-bearing
enchant and startle some of the more reserved nieces and nephews who barely knew them, as was the case with a character from Mississippi visiting relatives in Pittsburgh in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson in the following exchange: BOY WILLIE: How you doing, sugar?143 MARETHA: Fine. BOY WILLIE: You was just a little old thing last time I seen you. You remember me, don’t you? This your Uncle Boy Willie from down South. That there’s Lymon. He my friend. We come up here to sell watermelons. You
hatred just surged up in me after looking at this thing in the paper. I just wanted to hurt somebody white. And I had to just really restrain myself to keep from just getting up. And that was the thing that went on during the whole campaign,” as he called the civil rights movement. George got hold of himself. He pulled himself back from the edge. This thing was driving him crazy, and there was nothing he could do about it. The white man probably never had a clue. George would go about his job on
began to change around him, he stood his ground in defense of the old order of things. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, “the only public building in the United States that refused to lower its flag to half-staff was McCall’s jail in Tavares,” the Lake County seat, according to the author Ben Green.10 COLORED ONLY and WHITE ONLY signs were coming down all over the South during the 1960s. But Sheriff McCall did not take down the COLORED WAITING ROOM sign in his
known is that his family had few resources and that he would not have been allowed into any white college in Louisiana in the early 1950s, and thus would not have been in a position to be recruited to the NBA. The consequences of his absence from the game would now be unimaginable to followers of the sport. In Pershing’s own circle, a funeral director named John Dunlap went to Oakland. Pershing’s boyhood friend Jimmy Marshall had been out in Los Angeles since the war. A friend named Limuary