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
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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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.
Word of his capture made it to Chicago. Ida Mae, a faithful reader of the Chicago Defender even in the days when it was well past its prime, would take note of people like Arrington High back in her home state and wish them safety. A colored physician that Ida Mae and most everyone from Mississippi knew through word of mouth, a man named T. R. M. Howard, also made note of what happened to Arrington High. Dr. Howard had founded the Mississippi Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a local
it wasn’t clear exactly how. “Ida Mae, I started to tell you to go back home,” Irene said after she learned that George had died. James said he had found him. “His arm was as hard as this seat.” “No, I found him,” his wife, Mary Ann, said. “No, you didn’t,” James said. “You fell out in the hallway.” “I should have been there,” Ida Mae said in one of her rare displays of regret. For forty-five years, she had been the dutiful wife of a hard-working and stoic man, cooking and cleaning after
was never soon enough for Miss Theenie, he climbed back on his horse and, as the daughter suspected, rode off to another girl he was weighing, named Sallie. George Gladney walked three or four miles past the salt licks of Long Creek and over the railroad tracks to see Ida Mae. It took him longer than it took David McIntosh, and by the time he got there, his shirt was wet with perspiration and brown from the dust clouds stirred up on the road. Sometimes David’s horse was still tied out front.
multimillion-dollar industry fed by the demands of wealthy and middle-class families from Chicago to Long Island who expected orange juice with their toast and coffee every morning. The brothers urged the three men and their frightened, thrown-together crew of pickers to stand their ground. “Man, sock it to ’em, sock it to ’em,” Reuben told George, knowing how much the grove owners were making off the fruit and that they were likely cheating them all. “Don’t pick it no less,” Whisper said.
let a patch of his brown skin show. Everywhere the family went, little Jules stood out from the rest of the family, and that was hard enough. Now he was being sneaked into a strange place in the middle of the night as if he were contraband. The grandfather put the blanket over Jules, sitting in the back seat. He tucked the little boy’s brown arms and legs under the blanket to make sure they didn’t show. He lifted the little boy in his arms like a bag of groceries and carried him into the room.