Since Harford County Public Library will be hosting the Smithsonian exhibit: Journey Stories in May, I thought it might be fun to read something about immigration. I was drawn to The Warmth of Other Suns (Find in our catalog)by Isabel Wilkerson because it was a part of history that happened during my lifetime (some of it anyway), yet I knew little about it. Wilkerson writes about the migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to cities North and West between 1915 and 1970. This movement of about six million people changed the face of the country: its politics, suburban growth, culture and economics.
Wilkerson uses three real people to demonstrate aspects of what this migration was like: Ida Mae Gladney who left Mississippi for Chicago in 1937; George Starling, who went from the Florida citrus groves to Harlem in 1945; and Dr. Robert Pershing Foster, who left for California from Louisiana in 1953. Dr. Foster’s story of his trip to California in a new Cadillac had a dramatic impact on me. During the trip, there was no place he could stay overnight because of his race. My husband’s family told similar stories about being turned away from motels at about the same time because they were Jewish.
I also found George Starling’s account fascinating because it talks about how labor shortages during the Wars started the movement North and gave African Americans a taste of economic power. It was this power struggle that almost got George Starling lynched and forced his move to New York.
And, Ida Mae, like many others, sought out others from her home town who had already moved north. Wilkerson even identifies some strange partner cities including my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y, which apparently had a lot of immigrants from Palestine, Texas.
Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson conducted countless hours of interviews and research for this book. The book is compellingly written and medium to fast-paced. I highly recommend this for people who are interested in history, personal accounts or the modern struggle of African Americans.
Posted by Linda Z.