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

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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  19,047 ratings  ·  2,916 reviews
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. Wilk...more
Hardcover, 1st, 622 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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JJ
Feb 25, 2011 JJ rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone, espescially those who like history.
Thinking back, I tried to recall some of the migrations that took place within America that I had learned about:

- The Gold Rush
- The Dustbowl Migration

Somewhere along the lines, my teachers forgot to mention the approximately six million people that left the Jim Crow South during 1915-1975, in search of a “kinder mistress”, and that they summoned up the courage, and risked their lives to drive cross-country, illegally hop trains, and save for months to secure a train ticket headed to Los Angeles...more
Jason
This is going to sound a little weird, but throughout my reading of The Warmth of Other Suns, which is primarily about the migration of black Americans from the Jim Crow South to western and northern U.S. cities during a large portion of the 20th century, I kept thinking about my upper-middle-class white high school biology teacher, Mrs. Ferry. Mrs. Ferry had a pretty significant impact on the direction my life took—she was a vibrant older woman who demanded a lot from her students, and those qu...more
Mary
I loved this book on several levels--though with one caveat. First and foremost, by narrating the lives of three very different participants in the Great Migration, Wilkerson fleshes out an important historical story that most of us know only in general outline, if that. The details of routine racial discrimination that these individuals faced both before and after coming to the North are horrifyingly vivid and impossible to ignore. Wilkerson's research is thorough and deep, and her (somewhat co...more
Jo
I wish I had it in my power to make this book required reading for everyone, at least all students. When we cringe at the horrors waged against others in the world today, we need to remember our own not so distant history and take the lead in driving change.

Sue
Sep 15, 2011 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers of American history
Excellent history of the movement of American blacks out of the southern states and into the north and west of the U.S. to escape the impact of the continuing Jim Crow laws on every facet of their lives. Wilkerson has found three exemplars of this internal migration who individually moved to New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, three of the popular points due to railway lines and highways. Using these three individuals we learn some of the reasons black citizens without rights decided to make thi...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

Through page 72: I am finding this book both intellectually interesting and emotionally gripping. That is exactly what I have been looking for. The book focuses on the life of thre blacks: Ida Mae who emigrated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937, George who fled from Florida to NY in 1945 and finally Robert Pershing who left in 1953 seeking to establish himself in California. The book follow these three individual and others for 100 years, during two world wars, the Depression and...more
Gary the Bookworm
“I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown . . .
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom”
― Richard Wright

Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and a daughter of the Great Migration, writes with conviction and passion. To tell us about the relocation of southern, mostly rural black people to...more
Rachel
Say you want to tell the story of ~6,000,000 Americans of African descent migrating from the southern to the northern US from the 1910s to the late 1970s. Six million is a big ol’ chunk of people. And a comprehensive picture of this Great Migration has been largely left out of the textbooks and consciousness of many of your potential hearers. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Isabel Wilkerson, you take 15 years of work and >1200 interviews and transform them into the page-turning, gut-punching,...more
Philip
I found this book very absorbing, even though the onset of work in the fall meant I had to put it aside for far too long.

The section on migration to Milwaukee I found especially fascinating. I grew up in a small town just outside that city, a sleepy little place fast becoming a bedroom suburb. We had been there only a few years when a strange rumor swept up and down our dead-end road -- a Black family had bought the house for sale down on the corner and would be moving in soon!

There was some ex...more
Meghan
Enthralling work of narrative nonfiction about a vitally important part of American history. I want this to be made into a show on HBO.

This book tells the story of the migration of African Americans from the South, starting in 1915 and continuing into the 1950s and even until the 1970s. Millions of black people left the South and settled in the North and West of the United States, mostly in urban areas. In many ways they were similar to immigrants fleeing oppression from another land. "They were...more
Julayne
My grandparents migrated to California from Louisiana after WWII, and they - like the migrants described in this book - met their new world with a combination of wariness and determination, surrounding themselves with others they knew growing up, a vegetable garden in the backyard, recipes from down home, and family values that they passed on to their children and grandchildren. As a result of their choice to leave all that was familiar to them, I had better educational opportunities and the abi...more
Julie
The Warmth of Other Suns is a transformative book, one that can profoundly change and shape the way we view American history. The list of awards and accolades is so long the book does not need my imprimateur, but I will echo each and every one by saying, "Read this."

From 1915 to 1970, thousands of black Americans undertook a pilgrimage of hope and determination that led them from cotton fields, rice and tobacco plantations, from villages and towns in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky...more
Sherie
This was an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. The author chronicles the lives of many who fled the south and focuses on three incredible individuals. It is a testament to all who wanted a better life for themselves and for their family. It is a story we need to hear again and again until we put aside our differences and embrace our fellow man.
I can't think of anyone to whom I would not recommend this book.
Melody
I remember that even we, with as little money as we had, had three members of a local black family working for us down in Alabama on Chickadale Farm. John helped daddy with the chickens, Essie came and cleaned on Saturdays (when her "sugar" wasn't bothering her). And when she was down with her sugar, she sent Juliet. I was enchanted with Juliet. I don't remember specifically why I was enamored with her - I think it was that she was so young and these three were the only black people I knew (othe...more
☯Emily
This is the story of the migration of blacks from the South to the North and West of the United States. For over 60 years, from World War I to the early 1970's, a steady stream of people left the Jim Crow South to seek freedom in the northern and western cities. The author has traced the story of three different people who left the South during three different decades and going to three different cities. Their stories represent the millions of blacks who left. Were their lives better in the Nort...more
Bookmarks Magazine
In The Warmth of Other Suns Wilkerson has composed a masterpiece of narrative journalism on a subject vital to our national identity, as compelling as it is heartbreaking and hopeful. Critics, however, were less certain about whether Wilkerson has written a definitive history of the Great Migration. Several reviewers saw the book as an important corrective to previous scholarship on the Migration that too often grouped African Americans into a voiceless mass, that focused exclusively on the nega...more
K
It's always impressive when a non-fiction book explores a topic that it would never occur to me to read about and manages to be not only educational but interesting. In The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Wilkerson describes African American migration from the Jim Crow south to the more subtly racist north over the course of the 20th century. In addition to offering well-researched historical details on the broader movement Wilkerson narrows her focus to three...more
Nancy
I would recommend this as required reading for all high school students as well as adult history buffs and anyone, like me, who appreciates a personalized, yet no less analytical account of an important historical event presented in a lively, readable manner. Wilkerson presents the story of the Great Migration of Blacks from the South to the North and West of the United States that took place from the 1930s though the 1970s and changed the face of this country. The author intersperses historical...more
Hadrian
Narrative history, with heavy beautiful emphasis on the narrative, and only a few small framing essays on the history. Reads like a compelling novel. Great stuff about how the people talk, act, think.

An impressive work, and one on an important part of American history. Others have already given this book great praise, I defer to them.
Trisha
Here’s a book I wish I could encourage every reader I know to add to their list – not only because it’s a good read, but more importantly because we all need to be more aware of what it has to teach us. It’s a meticulously researched and superbly written narrative about the great migration of some six million black Americans who left the South during the years between WWI and the 1970’s. The author is a descendent of parents whose stories are similar to so many others who made the often perilous...more
Eric Kibler
You say it can't happen here? Well guess what? It did. By that I mean the repressive, nightmarish type of scenario we often see in dystopian fiction like "1984" and "The Handmaid's Tale". After the Civil War, the Federal Government stepped in and regulated race relations in the South. But this regulation only lasted a few years until the bile of the white South became too great to bear. Then followed nearly 100 years of "Jim Crow". Sometimes the words "Jim Crow" are followed by the word "Laws",...more
Zinta
The older we get, the more we read, the more we realize that the history textbooks given to us in public schools when we were children left gaping holes where the shadow side of this nation’s history should have been. It is only as an adult, independent reader, that I have learned most (if not all) of what I know about American history. And while I had a general idea about the Great Migration—the exodus of about 6 million black Southerners moving north from 1915 to 1970—it was only by reading Is...more
Rachelfm
Best book I've read this year; one of the best books I've read in my life. I took a minor's worth of coursework in African-American studies and often choose books about African-Americans and the Civil Rights movement and I had more "aha moments" and deeper, more powerful insights about the African-American experience while reading this book than anything else I've read on the subject. The book was engaging and written for a popular audience with the express purpose of collecting and translating...more
Dennis Henn
Excellent anecdotal account of the migration of blacks out from the South between the years 1915-1970. The extent of Jim Crow laws, with the lynchings and segregation, which impacted every aspect of life continues to shock me. How we justify treating another race as less than animals seems so devoid of humanity that I wouldn't believe it true except the tendency is so well chronicled. So I try to pretend anti-semitism was peculiar to Russia or Germany but that I wouldn't practice it. I try to pr...more
Milton
A good book and a must read for those interested in African American history. I was deeply moved by it for it tells the story of my own family.
jo
so i told myself that i'll never write a negative review of a book by a living writer unless said writer is super duper famous and therefore unlikely to care about my puny review (see for instance Haruki Murakami, whose 1Q84 i was ready to throw out of the window with olympic passion, or John Green's insufferable The Fault in Our Stars, or David Levithan's equally insufferable Every Day -- i treated the last two with much more moderation than i treated IQ84, because i didn't want to hurt readers...more
Toni
Epic is right! As you can tell by the past posts of my blog, I'm not a huge reader of books about history. I'm not sure why, but I'd much rather get lost in a work of fiction, or in someone's personal story than to read a book about historical events. However, I've been fortunate that when I do go out on a limb and climb out of my reading comfort zone, I'm always pleasantly surprised.


I received an advanced copy of this book back in early summer, but because it was so thick, I decided not to read...more
Katherine
A fascinating look at the lives of black people in the U.S. after emacipation through to the Civil Rights Act and beyond. When I first saw the size of this book, I was apprehensive, but it reads easily as it traces the lives of three individuals and their families who left the south for New York, Chicago and L.A. Historical perspective is added in between their stories to show how they were, and were not, representative of the Great Migration of Blacks northward. Although I was generally aware o...more
Ruth
Jan 10, 2012 Ruth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs/ non-fiction
At first, a precious few then a swell of Black Americans, finally numbering over 10 million people, began a journey that spread all over America and the Great Migration had begun. They were searching for the freedom promised them but never to be realized in the south. The great Emancipation of the black race would not be tolerated by the slave owners and land barons of the southern states. Their cruel treatment continued unabated,divisions of families, beatings, hangings, long hard days of manua...more
Suzanne
“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.”

Just last year, I was helping my middle schooler study for his social studies test. One of the questions was about The Great Migration. Quite frankly, I had never heard that term before. There was no question that black Americans left the S...more
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“Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro's making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance.... Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are idential.... There is no help or healing in apparaising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and an understanding of the facts of the problem--a magnanimous understanding by both races--is the first step toward its solution.” 13 likes
“They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.” 9 likes
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