“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson is a beautifully written story about the decades-long migration of black Americans from southern cities to the North and Western cities. This migration changed the face of American history but has received a little attention from writers and other parties. Isabel Wilkerson told this story and managed to win the Pulitzer award. The non-fictional book involved a comprehensive study of the black community that took the better part of twenty years.
Wilkerson documented the whole fifty five year exodus of black Americans from the south to other cities in America. During her twenty year study, Ms. Wilkerson interviewed one thousand two hundred black Americans whose lives followed the same pattern of migration from the south. The story is then narrowed down to three individuals: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster.
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney migrated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1937. InMississippi, she had been a poor sharecropper who faced massive discrimination. After leaving for Chicago, she achieved some peace and quiet and was able to apply for a blue collar job that gave her some respect in society. George Swanson left Florida for Harlem, New York City, in 1945. The quick-tempered George spent his life in New York fighting for civil rights. Robert Foster left Louisiana to pursue a medical career in 1953. Financially, he was the most successful of the three individuals.
“The Warmth of Other Suns” brilliantly captures the treacherous travels of these individuals across states with incredible detail. Wilkerson goes on to tell how the migration of black Americans altered the face of the towns which they migrated to in search of greener pastures. The black Americans spread some of their cultural beliefs and traditions to the new towns. The story centers on the inability of the migrating individuals to accept the illogical Jim Crow segregation laws. Wilkerson manages to tell the story of the unrecognized exodus using real examples and small anecdotes. Wilkerson connects intimately with her subjects and gives the reader a chance to enjoy the human drama on a personal level.