The Great Migration

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, talks about her book, now in paperback, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration,  as listeners share their families' stories of moving away from the Jim Crow south.

Event:  Isabel Wilkerson will be speaking tonight at 6:30 at the Tenement Museum.  RSVP here.


Isabel Wilkerson

Comments [19]

Carola Burroughs from Bed-Stuy, Bklyn

My paternal grandparents came from the South in an earlier migration. My grandfather came east from Galveston, TX to study with WEB Du Bois at Wilberforce, then moved to NY in the early 1900s. After they found out about Emancipation, my great-grandmother and her sisters walked north from LA to VA, where my grandmother and her siblings were born. When my great-grandfather died in 1886, my great-grandmother moved to NY and became a domestic. When her job required her to live in and she couldn't have the children with her, my grandmother and great-uncle lived in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Harlem. My great-grandmother never learned to read or write, but she put both children through college. My grandmother, Williana Burroughs, received her teaching degree in 1903 from what is now Hunter College; you can read about her on Wikipedia.

Oct. 06 2011 12:09 PM
Calls'em from Downtown, today

Great book. Something that everyone should read.

Oct. 06 2011 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

The new south is very solid in this day...not during the migration. The migration to the north then was a matter of survival. I will read this book to find out the author's take on a sad story overtold.

Oct. 06 2011 11:57 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Too bad that the Southern black stats simply don't jive with Ms. Wilkerson's romantic theory. And of course, Brian doesn't know enough about this topic to challenge her...
Take Charlotte, NC, for instance, a "return migration" hot spot: 19.2% black unemployment rate. And this doesn't tell the whole story. AND the dependency on a car culture excerbates it...

Oct. 06 2011 11:56 AM
Agnes green from Brooklyn

my head is filled with so many stories about how my grandparents (both sides) and parents left south carolina. my family's migration stories also include my cousin's jumping onto recruiter trucks headed north during the 50s ... for jobs and respect.
I was filled with chillls as I read her beautifully written book and cherish (smile) how well it was printed. CONGRATULATION!

Oct. 06 2011 11:56 AM
mmaye from Bronx, NY

Ms. Wilkerson's book will become a classic. Every American should be familiar with its contents, even those who may not read all of it. It provides facts to refute a lot of the misinformation about the legacy of blacks who came from the South. What I found most interesting is, near the end, when she explains the census data that shows that these blacks were better educated and had more intact families than other blacks who were already living in the north. Like immigrants from everywhere, those who had to leave their homes worked several jobs, were more focused, and more successful, in many cases, than those already demoralized by urban life. Blacks from the Caribbean also had similar demographics, until after some generations, their children also may become indistinguishable from those with deeper roots.

A very important book for all to read.

Oct. 06 2011 11:54 AM
Mark from Philadelphia

This is a wonderful book that truly informed my day-to-day life in a northern city. I live on a block in Philadelphia that sees black and white homeowners interspersed, and my conversations with them have regularly returned to themes so well represented in this book. I thank Ms. Wilkerson for her time well spent, and for the impact it's having to strengthen my relationships with my neighbors.

Oct. 06 2011 11:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

Please stop lumping Caribbean people in these numbers, they don't want to be counted in the Black American experience, they just want to live in the US.

Oct. 06 2011 11:53 AM
john from office

I have been in the south and the Black family there seems, to me, to be very solid. Not what I see here in New York. I will now shut up.

Oct. 06 2011 11:53 AM
The Truth from Becky

Seriously Brian?? You are going to read that on air?? They left a family in the South that was already broken.

Oct. 06 2011 11:50 AM
Molly Dilworth from Brooklyn, NY

Thank you for writing a difficult story so beautifully. This book should be required reading for all Americans.

Oct. 06 2011 11:49 AM
RJ from prospect hts

An observation from a white person:

I grew up in the 60s in Crown Hts, a few blocks from Grand Army Plaza; I returned to Prospect Hts, a few blocks the other side, in the mid-1980s. I remember hearing as a kid (Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman African American congresswoman, was ours) that this area was red-lined, unofficially roped off by race and class for the poor and black. When I moved to Prospect Hts in the mid 1980s, it was the beginning of gentrification, and as I got to know my neighbors and neighborhood, I realized that a lot of African American people on my block and in this neighborhood were from the Carolinas and Georgia and the Caribbean. As the neighborhood has gentrified, many African Americans, who bought the town houses and brownstones for what we'd now consider near nothing ($15-$25,000) have recently sold those homes for (well-earned) large amounts of money and retired down south, where they still have relatives, or leaving those houses to those children, who almost completely have also sold since they now live elsewhere. (All while the Caribbean community has mostly been forced out by high rents to the Flatbush/Church Avenue area).

Oct. 06 2011 11:48 AM
Judy from Manhattan

The book is not only incredibly informative, it is a great read. Her narrative style pulls you in on page one and doesn't loosen it's grip till the end.

Oct. 06 2011 11:47 AM
The Truth from Becky

No JOHN FROM THE OFFICE, what "weakened" the Black Family was the white slave owners selling the children, mother's and father's away from each other to different plantations for profit like common cattle...please stay on topic, dont get me started.

Oct. 06 2011 11:47 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

john from the
Of course, blacks were a terrorized underclass in the South, as well...

Oct. 06 2011 11:47 AM
Lisa Marie from West Orange, New Jersey

My paternal grandmother and father migrated from L.A. (Lower Alabama) to Cincinnati, OH. In the tiny town they grew up in, the Klan burned down the black schoolhouse - three times. After the third time, the black community gave up on rebuilding it, so my grandfather never got beyond an eighth grade education. As the "runt" of the family (he was the last of 13th children) he was able to leave without his contribution to the family sharecropping being missed as much. He was the first to move north and brought ALL his siblings behind him, one by one, often staying in his home as they got on their feet. All of the great-aunts and uncles I asked said they left in order to get an education. My grandparents, with their eighth grade educations, sent all four of his sons to college - Hampton, Harvard, Kenyon and Williams - AND graduate or professional school. They had a vision for our future.

Oct. 06 2011 11:43 AM
john from office

Every time they discuss this book it is as a positive. It can be argued that the move to the North weakened the black american family. Is the creation of an underclass in New York, Chicago or Newark a positive thing??

Oct. 06 2011 11:41 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Harlemites are moving back to the South, for the same reason that their ancestors came to Harlem from the South 80 years ago: Income/ wealth disparity. It persists, must be addressed.

Oct. 06 2011 11:40 AM
James from Queens

My grandmother was part of the great migration (I had the chance to record her sister's story at StoryCorps). She moved with my grandfather into a home in Saint Albans, Queens in 1957 where she lived for the rest of her life and where I grew up. Our entire block was occupied by matriarchs who were part of the migration and who served as de facto mothers for the children of the neighborhood.
The trend that seems apparent to me today is a reverse migration as older black families who moved to NYC for economic opportunity can no longer afford to stay here because of housing costs and they are moving back to the Carolinas and Georgia. The new great migration into NYC (at least in our neighborhood) seems to be from recent West Indian immigrant families, particularly Jamaicans and Haitians.

Oct. 06 2011 10:14 AM

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