Author News and Book Reports
Isabel Wilkerson narrates the triumphs and tragedies of the 'Great Migration' that changed America
Introduced by WPLG-TV's Neki Mohan, Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize, not to mention the prestigious Polk Award for journalism, and former New York Times reporter, took the stage at the 2011 Miami Book Fair International to present her New York Times bestseller and 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award-winning history The Warmth Of Other Suns, recently released in trade paperback (Vintage; October, 2011). Having researched and interviewed more than 1200 people over fifteen years, Wilkerson detailed the southern caste system resulting in nearly 100 years of streams of African-Americans migrating to the north in search of a better life, a period known as The Great Migration, fraught with unforeseen risks and even police arrest, ending in the 1970's. Pointing out the individual challenges migrants faced in trying to integrate their southern culture and dialects when they arrived in the north, Wilkerson told the story of how a young boy named James Cleveland Owens became world renowned as Jesse Owens, the great Olympic champion and traced the Great Migration roots of many of America's greatest artists, including Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Motown legend Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and John Coltrane, who left their indelible stamp on American culture at home and around the world. Wilkerson concluded her presentation by crediting the Great Migration with culminating in the breakdown of the two-tier caste system and the triumph of Civil Rights in the 1960's before taking questions from the audience on the relevance of and lessons we can draw from the Great Migration to today's immigration issues; the impact of modern day African-Americans returning to their southern cultural heritage; the rise of Jim Crow laws in the wake of post-Civil War Re-Construction; the sometimes disastrous consequences of the Great Migration as in the example of the infamous case of the Harvey Clark family's migration to Cicero, Illinois; the many large and small challenges of adapting to new cultural environments; and the fate of over 100,000 Haitians already cleared for immigration to the U.S..