Thank you for your willingness to participate in a book chat on The Warmth of Other Suns. As some of you know (a migrant myself) I have come to call Eustis, Florida home--the home of George Starling. I was fortunate enough to hear the author, Isabel Wilkerson, speak last spring and fell in love with her style of weaving in a dark era of American History with personal narratives that really touch the inner soul. In many ways she shares the stories of both the average Joe and the great American hero.
Hate him or love him this book was on the president's summer reading list while he vacationed in Martha's Vineyard last year. The message of this book is an important one and I hope that you will have new insights on The Great Migration to share with your students. Lastly, my wish is that you will enjoy this read as much I did. Invite your friends! I look forward to reading your posts.
First Posting: by 2/19 (Part I)--scroll down for questions
Second Posting: by 3/4 (Part II)
Third Posting: by 3/18 (Part III)
Forth Posting: by 4/8 (Part IV)
Fifth Posting: by 4/29 (Part V and Epilogue)
Part I: Reflection Question
1. The term ‘The Great Migration’ has been given by historians to one of the greatest voluntary migrations of all time. However, most who participated in this so called silent pilgrimage never saw their personal decision to leave the American South as anything more than just that—a personal decision. Is the term Great Migration an appropriate one? Why or why not? When did you first learn about The Great Migration?
2. Quote – What is something that sparked your interest, you didn’t understand, something that you identified with or one thing that summed up the section for you?
3. Question – What are you curious about after reading this section?
4. Classroom Connection–How might you connect something that you have read about to your students in the classroom?
I am so struck by what you've written about the treatment of the Vietnamese at the hands of American soldiers. This is not something one hears of often, if at all. I am impressed that your memory has not compartmentalized the experience, and because of this, you are able to relate it to the Jim Crow treatment of African Americans in the South. Together, these two situations hardly inspire confidence in mankind's potential to accept all cultures and all races as one human family.
It touched me very deeply at the time. A few years ago, I came across letters that I'd written to my now wife (we married a few months after I returned) while I was there. I wrote about it in them.
On Sundays, while in Vietnam, I (and a very few others from my unit) worked with Amer-Asian children in an orphanage near our base. Most were not orphans, but were outcasts - abandoned by their American fathers, and rejected by their mothers and their Vietnamese families, for whom they were seen as marks of shame. They were probably the most needy children I've ever met in my life, wanting desperately to be held and played with. Here is the link to a photo of me with two of them competing for my attention on one of those Sundays. http://twitpic.com/8j6o4i
I wish it were just these two experiences (Vietnam and knowing American racial history) that kept me from feeling confident "in mankind's potential to accept all cultures and all races as one human family." (As you so eloquently put it above.) I see recent reports of US soldiers' behavior in Afghanistan, and earlier (similar) reports from Iraq (especially Abu Gharib) as further deterrents to such confidence. Unfortunately, I don't think we even have to go those sorts of events to see it. The fact that we report US deaths with great exactness, but are pretty much intentionally ignorant of the number of deaths of our opponents, speaks volumes. I used to ask people how many people were killed in Vietnam (Iraq or Afghanistan work too), and I would get a fairly close number to the actual number of Americans killed. That told me that unconsciously, we don't consider "them" people. If we did, we'd give the total deaths of all combatants in a given conflict, not just those from our nation. http://www.classroomtools.com/faces.htm
1. I think I first learned about "The Great Migration" in my high school English classroom...likely within the context of the Harlem Renaissance. I was an American Studies major in college and learned about this pilgrimage in much greater detail at that point. Even though each individual story is different, when you look at the sum of the parts, it is a significant social/economic/cultural moment. I wonder if it was truly "voluntary," though, given some of the stories that emerge in the following chapters. In some cases, to stay put was a death sentance.
2. p. 12 "there were so many people turning like bees in a hive." I just have this incredible image of the sheer numbers...crowded trains...people carrying a few possessions. This becomes even more poignant in later chapters when we learn about local authorities tearing up tickets.
3. Just want to learn more!
4. I am now wishing that I had encouraged a student to explore this topic for National History Day!
Could you post a link to the original of this map, Shauna? I'd like to click through to the readings, but clicking on the image only opens it as a standalone. Thanks.
Thanks for posting this video, Shauna. I don't know that she says anything in it that she didn't write in the book, but hearing her speak adds an entirely new dimension to her message. She is as eloquent when speaking, as she is when she writes.
Here is the link--I should have hyperlinked it in the first place. ;http://www.bu.edu/bostonia/fall10/wilkerson/)
Thanks so much Shauna.
I learned about the Great Migration in my undergraduate class in American History. This was a survey course and only glazed over the topic so I did not have an indepth knowledge of it. I am not sure the "Great Migration" is the best term for this, I might say the "necessary migration". The U.S. was in deep need of workers in the big cities. As African Americans were treated less than human still in the South, they looked at this movement as a way to become humanized. What sparked my interest was the fact that these people had so much courage to leave all they knew for a somewhat unknown. I think this could be used in many different ways, rights, movement, industrial revolution.....etc.