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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Written by Isabel Wilkerson

Narrated by Robin Miles


The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Written by Isabel Wilkerson

Narrated by Robin Miles

ratings:
5/5 (450 ratings)
Length:
22 hours
Released:
Mar 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781455814251
Format:
Audiobook

Editor's Note

Sweeping and riveting…

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson brings to life the previously overlooked story of the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans uprooted their lives to move from the South to cities across the US from 1915 to 1970. Sweeping and riveting, Wilkerson’s book made the ZORA Canon, a list of 100 of the greatest books written by African American women.

Description

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. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to previously untapped 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 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 state 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 medicine, becoming the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful career that allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures her subjects' 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 their new 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 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.
Released:
Mar 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781455814251
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about The Warmth of Other Suns

4.8
450 ratings / 121 Reviews
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Critic reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson brings to life the previously overlooked story of the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans uprooted their lives to move from the South to cities in the North, the Midwest, and out West from 1915 to 1970. By tracing the journeys of three people, Wilkerson makes the sweeping history accessible and riveting. Barack Obama included "The Warmth of Other Suns" on his 2019 reading list for Black History Month.

    Scribd Editors

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This was a very interesting story of three black migrants from the South, to Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. It is rich with the details of their lives. Personally, I was shocked to to learn about the discrimination migrants faced in the North and West, especially the housing discrimination. Of course, I was well aware of this before reading the book, but the personal experiences brought the facts home for me. > "When it was time to go, they paid their tab and put their glasses down. The bartender had said very little to them the whole time they were there. Now the bartender calmly picked up their glasses, and instead of loading them into a tray to be washed, he took them and smashed them under the counter. … “They do it right in front of us,” George said. “That’s the way they let us know they didn’t want us in there. As fast as you drink out of a glass and set it down, they break it.” There were no colored or white signs in New York. That was the unnerving and tricky part of making your way through a place that looked free.One of the characters is mostly unsympathetic, both at the time and in his later recollections. He's shallow, greedy, self-important—and, despite the author's spirited defense, sounds like an awful doctor. This complicates the story, though, in an interesting way. A niggle is that occasionally (at least six times) little descriptions are repeated, almost word for word, hundreds of pages apart. Why did the editing miss this? But really, quite a few pages could have been cut in editing without harming the book. A bigger problem is that beyond the personal stories, Wilkerson is very weak at telling and explaining the history. At least the minimum is there, so that's good—we get some of the broader context along with all the anecdotes. Still, there is not much, and what there is is weak. For example, at one point Wilkerson argues that the Great Migration forced change in the South. One can certainly make this case based on the information in this book. But her evidence when she makes the argument? The number of lynchings declined over the decades of the migration. I think she should have dug into this question more deeply.
  • (4/5)
    This as a very interesting book for someone like me. Someone whose knowledge of recent American history is limited to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's (courtesy of a High School History module), and whatever I can reliably take from TV and films. Which would be not much. It ties the general phenomenon of the 20th C migration of blacks from the South to North /West US together with the specific life stories of three such migrants.I had no idea how hard it was for people to leave the South: that it was an escape, not just a move. In towns where the local law ran it how they wanted, people literally snuck out in the middle of the night lest they be "caught" attempting to board a train. I had a vague idea that the North and South were different, but this book really showed me how. Racism was all over the country, but in the South it was backed up by the very real threat of a gruesome death. That this occurred in such recent times still makes my chest feel tight in sadness and disbelief.The community and social support people had in the South may have been partly an act of necessity in the face of such terrible hardship and fear, but it was sorely missed by those families who fled. They arrived to very different ways in Northern cities, and had to adjust. But- they had their freedom. As time marched on, the Northern migrants saw changes in their home states, but with new lives most stayed where they were. And these patterns of movement changed American cities for ever.There was a lot of information in this book. And a lot of repetition. I feel there could have been a good 100-120 pages removed and it wouldn't have altered the story. The short sections that detailed the personal stories were hopped between fairly quickly, but were then backed up by some historical and social facts. It is a great method of telling a non fiction narrative. But too bitsy for me, and a case of there being a little too much information. A very worthwhile read.
  • (5/5)
    I had been meaning to read this book ever since it came out, but the national uprising against police brutality following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson pushed me to finally pick it up. I felt it was necessary to improve my understanding of the history of structural racism in the US.Isabel Wilkerson's book covers several decades and a huge geography but she keeps her discussion focused on the experience of her three protagonists who left the South because of their particular experiences under Jim Crow and the conditions they faced in the north (or, in the case of Robert Foster, California).Wilkerson writes in the book's introduction about what might be "the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century":"Over the course of six decades, some six million black southerners left the land of their forefathers and fanned out across the country for an uncertain existence in nearly every other corner of America. The Great Migration would become a turing point in history. It would transform urban America and recast the social and political order of every city it touched."Wilkerson's book is a significant effort in understanding the leaderless Great Migration's meaning and its legacy. Though she focuses on three main characters throughout, Wilkerson interviewed 1,200 people for the book and she also cites a variety of secondary sources. So while the book is narrative-driven, it is grounded in comprehensive research.Some have criticized the book for repeating details but it seemed obvious that this was done so that chapters can work as stand-alone pieces, making this book a good resource for teachers. So I don't think this should be held against the book; it would be a shame if it hadn't been approached with classroom education in mind.I do think this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand why racial inequality is so entrenched in the United States today. I plan to follow it up with Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and Angela Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete?
  • (5/5)
    Fabulous and touching
  • (5/5)
    Deeply moving history of the post-World War I mass migration of African Americans from the deep South to northern and western cities where they expected to find better lives. The author focuses on three individuals and their families. While they escaped the brutal violence and legally-mandated segregation they had grown up with, they found themselves in a new world that was less than idyllic.
  • (5/5)
    May be the most powerful book I read this year.