THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS, By Isabel Wilkerson
“THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS” provides an excellent commentary on the epic story of “America’s African American Great Migration” from the South to the North and West between 1915 - 1975. It is told through the true stories of four individuals who made the journey. Herself a child of the migration, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Isabel Wilkerson, tells how individuals responded to the Jim Crow south, where despite their emancipation following the Civil War, black people were valued primarily for their labor and compensated as the white land owners saw fit. Their children were allowed to attend schools only when they were not needed for field work and every aspect of their lives was segregated. If they expressed any resentment, they could be beaten, or lynched. Isabel, whose own family had been part of the great migration, tells their story with graceful imagery and humanity. “It was during World War I that a silent pilgrimage took its first steps within the borders of this country. The fever rose without warning or notice or much in the way of understanding by those outside its reach. It would not end until the 1970’s and would set into motion changes in the North and South that no one, not even the people doing the leaving, could have imagined at the start of it or dreamed could take a lifetime to play out.
“ Their decisions were separate. joining a road already plied decades before by people as discontented as themselves. A thousand hurts and killed wishes led to a final determination by each fed-up individual on the verge of departure, which, added to millions of others, made what could be called migration. It would become perhaps the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century. It was vast. It was leaderless. It crept along so many thousands of currents over so long a stretch of time as to make it difficult for the press truly to capture while it was happening.”
On April 28, 1917, an editorial in the Cleveland Advocate wrote “There is no mistaking what is going on; it is a regular exodus. It is without head, tail, or leadership. Its greatest factor is momentum. People are leaving their homes and everything about them, under cover of night as though they were going on a day’s journey – leaving forever.
Breaking Away “I was leaving without a question, without a single backward glance. The face of the South that I had known was hostile and forbidding and yet out of all the conflicts and the curses, the tension and the terror, I had somehow gotten the idea that life could be different. I was now running more away from something than toward something. My mood was I’ve got to get away; I can’t stay here. “ Richard Wright, “Black Boy”