February 28, 2011

The Great Migration

Well, it's the last day of Black History Month. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading books by us, for us. It took me nearly all month to finish the nonfiction selection, but it's the perfect way to end this month of celebration. Sit back and enjoy this history lesson.

The Great Migration started in 1915. Many families decided to leave the South to feel security. They fled as if under a spell, leaving with the intention of staying away. It didn't end until the 1970s when "whites only" signs in the South came down. All-white schools opened up to black students. Everyone could finally have the right to vote. By then, 47% of Black Americans migrated North. This was actually the first major step that Black took without asking permission.

The Warmth of Other Suns focuses on three people and their account of The Great Migration. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney and her two children left Mississippi in the 1930s and migrated to Chicago. George Swanson Starling and his wife left Florida in the 1940s and moved to New York. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a surgeon, left Louisiana in the 1950s and migrated to Los Angeles.

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney
George Swanson Starling
Robert Joseph Pershing Foster

"There was no Moses or Joshua or Harriet Tubman, or for that matter, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize the Migration. The best known leader at the start of it, Booker T. Washington, was vehemently against abandonment of the South and strongly discouraged it. Frederick Douglas, who saw it coming but died before it began, was against the very thought of it." ~ p.48

The Warmth of Other Suns is a lengthy book. I'm a fast reader but with the subject and details, it took me almost all of February to finish. I learned a lot about black history (although I credit most of my prior knowledge to Bates Battle). I like the style and sequence of the book. It's told in an informational story format that displays how and why each of the three main characters left different parts of the South, during different decades, for different reasons and with different outcomes. It is broken into three sections (collection of oral histories, narrative of the three main characters, and then an examination of newspaper and literary accounts of the Migration). It's all very interesting if you're a history buff or ancestry seeker. I wouldn't call it a page-turner, but I think everyone, no matter the race, should read it at least once. Isabel, this is a classic!

To meet the author and learn more about the book, check out the video below of Isabel Wilkerson speaking at Yale University.

Title: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Published: September 2010
Pages: 591 (eBook) or 640 (Hardcover)
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Happy Black History Month, bookhearts!

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