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

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  89,966 ratings  ·  10,928 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
Paperback, 622 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Vintage (first published September 7th 2010)
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Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: immigration
In 1994 Isabel Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, making her the first African American woman to do so. Upon receiving this prestigious award, Wilkerson, a daughter of migrants, paused to think of those who paved the way so that she could have the opportunity to earn such an honor. Listing a who's who of prominent African Americans of the 20th century, many had moved with their families during the Great Migration, north or west in search of a better life. Ray Charles, Bill Russell, ...more
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
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
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a 2010 Random House publication.


It is seldom that a nonfiction book, especially one covering an incredibly detailed history, is both densely informative and compulsively readable.

This is my ‘Black History Month’ read- and I can honestly say, I couldn’t have made a better choice for such an occasion.

The book covers the migration out of the south from the early 1900s all the way through to
Dec 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I requested this particular book, I had one goal: to learn about the Great Migration and the Jim Crow aspect. These were the terms I often came across while reading my friends’ reviews or some novels, and I admit I had no knowledge of what these terms stand for. I understood the context, but I felt that was not enough. After getting tired of my ignorance, I chose this non-fiction after reading several wonderful reviews by my Friends.
Ms Wilkerson wrote a book that is long, but it cannot be
Glenn Sumi
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns is one of those rare books that cracks open the world and makes you see everything you thought you knew in a different light.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chronicles the massive migration of blacks from the Jim Crow South, where racism was still entrenched, to the North and West. This happened from 1915 to 1970 and forever changed the country, especially the makeup of the big cities.

While Wilkerson’s scope is large, and takes in history, labou
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story about the mass migration of blacks fleeing to the North and West in order to escape the horrors of the Jim Crow south. Isabel Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people and spent years completing her thorough research. This work of non-fiction highlights the stories of three unrelated individuals, Ida Mae Gladney, Robert Foster, and George Starling in their journeys from Mississippi to Chicago, Louisiana to Los Angeles, and Florida to New York City, respectively. The atrocitie ...more
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, best-of-2020
The Warmth of Other Suns details the 70 year silent migration of Blacks from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western states. Six million people made the move, far outpacing any other migration within this country. Wilkerson does a superb job of explaining what led to the migration and how it played out. By using three individuals, from three different locales and time periods, she gives you a personal view in addition to the bare facts. It worked well to keep me engaged and helped the boo ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

After listening to The Warmth of Other Suns for close to two months in 40 minute increments on my walk to work every morning, the main thing I want to say is WOW. This book is extraordinary in so many ways. And I think I have to break my self-imposed one paragraph rule for this review because there are so many dimensions to the Warmth of Other Suns.

Wilkerson writes a comprehensive multidimensional book about the great migration -- the move by millions of African Americans from the southern U.S.
Anne Bogel
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was excellent, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to read this justifiably long and essential read about a slice of forgotten American history detailing the decades-long migration of almost six million black citizens from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1970, hoping for a better life, and how their resettlement changed the face of America.

Wilkerson focuses on the stories of three individuals, giving us both an intimate portrayal and Big Picture view of what they exper
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My Uncle Jerry appreciated this book so much that when he finished reading it, he sent me his hardcover copy through the mail in order to make sure I read it! I hail from Detroit, and some of my elders, there---knowing how much I read and write---told me it was an ABSOLUTE MUST-READ. Nobody lied! This book is a powerful, sensitive, exhaustively researched and compellingly composed and important work of “narrative nonfiction” written by journalist-turned-griot, Isabel Wilkerson.

It has been easy t
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent social history that I finally got to and through with the therapy of staring for days at the rocky Maine coast for a week! I knew it would sucker-punch me, as it did. I flashbacked on how my old, undergraduate prof in Race and Ethnic Relations mentioned he was quiting teaching the course after over 20 years as it was discouraging so little progress was made. Here I am in the same boat job-wise, and I haven't taught it for a couple years but can't help fixating daily on race and the ...more
In the future, people will probably mistake the the origin of the phrase ‘the warmth of other suns’ to be this big book on America’s Great Migration, when it fact Wilkerson credits the phrase to a poem of Richard Wright’s that she uses as an epigraph:
"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
It's quite intimidating to try and craft a review for this amazing book. I have a much harder time reviewing a book that I adore, than books that I liked. This wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it is the book that has affected me the most in terms of the foundations of my own family.  This book unmasked me and taught me how much I didn't know about where I came from. 
On its face this is a history book about a period in time in American history between WWI and the Vietnam War.  What's st
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2015
I loved this!! If you haven't read it, you are missing something astonishing and deeply moving. Wilkerson shows us the migration of blacks from the south to the north from 1915 through 1970 through the lives of three main characters - Ida Mae Gladney (Chickasaw County, Mississippi to Chicago), George Swanson Starling (Wildwood, Florida to New York City), and Robert Pershing Foster (Monroe, Louisiana to Los Angeles). Three very different people with different stories over different decades, but t ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
Another great book club book. This was such a good book. Over 1,000 people were interviewed for this book. But ultimately the stories of 3 individuals are told. Amazing research. This book is about the mass migration from the south that changed the face of American. This is not a light book. It is heavy in so many ways. But oh is it good. Such a gifted and talented writer. This clearly was a work of love. Ten years in the making/researching. Isable Wilkerson has created a Masterpiece with this b ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, best-books-ever
With the turn of each page, I wished there was one to replace it. The book was written to document the Great Migration, when approximately six million African Americans fled the South to live in other parts of the country. But it captures so much more than that.

I did not understand the enormity of this movement, until I read this statistic: Before the Great Migration only 10% of African Americans lived outside of the South. After the Great Migration, approximately 47% did. As the author so eloq
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
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
When construction in California came to a halt around 1995, my husband, who worked in construction building homes as well as plumbing them, was out of work. So, we decided to buy a trailer and travel the U.S., stopping to look for work. We ended up in Mississippi, just across the Tennessee border from Memphis.

After being in Mississippi for 9 months, I couldn’t wait to leave. The racism was terrible, to put it mildly. My husband had warned me, but I didn’t listen. There was work in Mississippi,
Jul 10, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Wilkerson introduces a section by describing the discovery by Edwin Hubble of a star that was “far, far away”. It was another sun. This becomes the symbol for the title “The Warmth of Other Suns.” It describes the dream of Black Americans living in the South that there was another sun, or world. A world where they could escape from Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. A world not dominated by racism and the threat of lynching. A world with the potential for social equality and economic opportunity. Th ...more
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those rare history books that makes history as fresh and relevant as local headlines, and as gripping as a novel. I'll admit that even with my background as an American history teacher, I didn't know much about the Great Migration of the early twentieth century, during which millions of African Americans left the Jim Crow South for the North and the West, permanently changing the demographics of the U.S. Wilkerson follows the lives of three such people in different decades, while ...more
Sep 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, usa, dnf, bio, race, history
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 lives of three 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 the events ...more
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, bipoc-author
I was not at all sure I wanted to read this book. On the surface, it's a tough sell: 600 pages about the Great Migration. So, like, a really long book about people moving house? In what world would that be interesting?

Here's the thing, though: Isabel Wilkerson is a special kind of writer and researcher. She's not regurgitating facts. She's telling a story. Three stories, actually, of three very different people who all journeyed from the southern United States to the north in the mid-20th centur
Elyse Walters
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Isabel Wilkerson is my new Hero!!!

She wrote a remarkable historical epic!! (Ambitious)...Over 10 years of research. The stories are heart wrenching. She gives us an in depth education about the Great American Migration in this country ---and manages to keep us completely engaged from start to finish. I admit --I was a little worried that this book would be too long ---I would 'drift-off' pretty soon (I was thinking---"I'll skip some parts") >>> but I couldn't do it.... I read EVERY WORD. I also
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
I put off reading The The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration for many years despite the rave reviews of my GR friends. I assumed that this work of non-fiction would be a dry slog. I could not have been more wrong. This book is a stunningly moving and engrossing page turner which I couldn't put down. Isabel Wilkerson not only gives facts and figures about the great migration but, more importantly, tells the story of the migration by narrating the lives of three peop ...more
Clif Hostetler
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book's description of the The Great Migration (1910-1970) of African Americans from the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West is structured as the interweaving of three story lines. The first is a collection of oral histories from the individuals who experienced the Migration. The second is the telling of the biographies of three selected individuals who lived through the Migration. The third is an examination of newspaper accounts and scholarly and literary ...more
Monica **can't read fast enough**
I simply don't have the appropriate words to relate the immense impact that The Warmth of Other Suns has had on me. I consider this massive book absolutely required reading for everyone that is interested in the history and experiences of African Americans. It should be required reading for every high school student. I could not have read this book at a better time in my life. With the imminent fall out of our recent elections here in America, it is vital that we remember the horrors of the many ...more
Rachel Reads Ravenously
Wow. And I mean WOW. What a book. I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before.

The Warmth of Other Suns chronicles The Great Migration, a period of time when black citizens fled the American South in favor of northern or western cities. Taking place from 1915 to 1970, this book focuses on the lives of three people: Ida Mae Gladney who left Mississippi to go to Chicago in the 1930’s, George Starling who left Florida in the 1940’s for New York, and Robert Foster who left Louisiana in the 195
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