Good evening everyone! Tonight, was the first meeting of the Hueman Book Club for 2012. This month, we discussed Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This book on the Great Migration, is an intimidating length, but is a major contribution to the field of study on the topic. It is a masterful work, weaving in the history of six decades of movement of African Americans in with the personal stories related to her by the thousands of people interviewed for it. The author narrows down the focus of the book on three people, following them throughout their lives as they adjust to the journeys they embark on.
While scholars of previous work have focused primarily on the economic factors motivating Black Americans to leave the South, Wilkerson homes in on the human aspect of the story. Likening the Great Migration to an “unrecognized immigration” , she captures the aspirations of millions of Black Americans to live less restrained lives. It is social history, one that fills in where other works have not.
There are countless aspects of the book to focus on, but our conversation tonight really centered around the aspirations of the migrants, and how they came to overcome by fleeing Jim Crow. While we talked about the factors of the Great Migration of yesteryear, the contemporary trend, which appears to be a reversal of sorts came up. The commonality that people found in the conversation, is that there are factors that are still beyond our control. The same issues that force a good chunk of Black people out of the cities in the same way their parents and grandparents left the South are still there. How we will deal with them this time, is yet to be seen.
This is a book of great value. One of the things that is imparted here is the fact that our stories matter. Too often, in African American families, the South is a distant afterthought. A place that we know we come from, but hesitate to speak on or identify with. Speaking for myself, the Great Migration is not something I learned about in school. But my parents told me of their experiences, but it was too removed from my inner city experience to truly resonate at earlier points in my life. Before, I did not talk about issues of heritage with many people. Now, I can embrace the “Southerness”(for lack of a better term) in my family heritage, and myself as well. That in itself is important for myself and other Black Americans to be able to say.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming out to our first discussion of 2012. I appreciate the opportunity to Guest Facilitate such an important book! It was such a rousing discussion!
Next month, the Hue-Man Book Club will discuss “By Any Greens Necessary” by Tracye Lynn McQuirter. Come out and lets talk about health in the Black community. Wednesday, February 29th, from 6pm-8pm. Until then, peace!
-Marc W. Polite
Child of the Great Migration