Review of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns

“I began this work because of what I saw as incomplete perceptions, outside of scholarly circles, of what the Great Migration was and how and why it happened, particularly through the eyes of those who experienced it. Because it was so unwieldy and lasted for so long, the movement did not appear to rise to the level of public consciousness that, by any measure, it seemed to deserve.”  Isabel Wilkerson (Notes on Methodology appendix) The Warmth of Other Suns

And what a marvelous work it is! Chronicling in a very personal way through the eyes of three who made it one to New York , one to Chicago, and one to Los Angeles a migration that has shaped this nation in ways large and small – the migration of African Americans from the deep south to the north starting just before World War 1 and ending around 1970.

And beside interweaving the personal stories of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, M.D.,  who, respectively, went from Mississippi to Chicago, Central Florida to New York, and Louisiana to Los Angeles, Isabel Wilkerson delves into the scholarly literature of economics, sociology, and political science as she argues that those who left, often at great risk, the cotton fields and sharecropper shacks, the cities of second class status as educators and community leaders, and the citrus groves, were not stereotypically dysfunctional but rather were stable hard-working families who sought to be free, for a variety of reasons,  from the repressive reign of Jim Crow culture.

What I liked about this book is how Wilkerson interviewed the stories of Gladney, Starling, and Foster in a telling against a thorough narrative of the larger historical picture of the migration. And it is a narrative that threads its way into a thousand tributaries of mid 20th century America.

I checked out this eBook via my local library and was so impressed with it that I wrote this review.

I rate this book a ‘Magnificant’ read on my unscientific rating system.


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