Part III: Reflection Question

1. In this section of the book Wilkerson discusses the crossing over experience as George, Ida Mae and Robert leave the South for a new life in the North or the West. She writes, “[t]he earliest departures were merely the first step in a divorce that would take more than a half century to complete.” (p. 217) Have we been able to reconcile this so called divorce as a nation? Discuss.

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?

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1.  What I was thinking about as I started the section is what Detroit is like now.  Factories less than they ever were, poverty rampant, pollution really really bad...What was such a beacon of freedom has been turned, by the economy and politics, into a place of hopelessness.  Here is the answer to the actual question... I don't know that we will ever reconcile the divorce as a nation...I think it is ingrained into so many peoples' identities, I am not sure it would ever be "forgotten"

2.  I LOVED reading about Huey Newton as a toddler...I did a lot of research into the Black Power movement of the 60's and to imagine him as a toddler migrating with his parents in a tiny black turtleneck was great.  I added the turtleneck.  :)

3. Who else's life was shaped by this migration as a child.  There were a few examples but I want more!

4.  The way the author connects it to Darfur or other genocides...I don't know if kids understand how brutal their life was for the migrants because it's so close to us and American's would never do such a thing!

1.  If the question is asking if there is total peace in the nation, the answer would be that we do not have total peace yet.  There are still pockets of discontent.  The majority, however, have come to accept and welcome racial harmony.  And we as a nation are moving less.   A recent opinion published in the New York Times pointed out that young Americans are moving at a lower rate than in the past (  Here is one of the quotes from that piece, “Today’s generation is literally going nowhere.”  The piece explored economic reasons for not moving.  Perhaps comfort and acceptance of the current location might be factors as well. 

2.  The incident with Eddie Earvin who sliced his fingers, waited three days to walk six miles to the doctor’s, and then be confronted with a Winchester rifle to the head with a warning of, “You don’t go nowhere unlessen I tell you to go,” crystalizes why people made the effort to leave the familiar and travel hundreds of mile to the unfamiliar. 

3.  If we were able to travel back in time, what would we have done to make everyone’s lives easier? 

4.  It would be good to discuss people’s will to survive in the face of uncertainty, difficulty and gross challenges across cultures and time periods. 

1. Reconcile it? I think most of the country is asleep to it, save those who experienced it, and from Wilkerson's work it does not seem to have been recognized as having larger significance by even those. It's not uncommon to hear people reference the Great Depression, major wars, recessions... how many talk about "the Great Migration?" I suppose if you look at it practically, it's ended as a phenomenon with the slowdown of the 1970s, end of the Civil Rights movement. Is there as many African Americans moving around for those same reasons? Not likely, but people do still move around plenty in this country. When I read the word "reconcile," I think of it as meaning we've adopted it into the narrative of our history, absorbed it, ascribed it a meaning that helps explain the present, and no, I don't think we're there. I've read about the Great Migration before, but this is the first time I've read it with a "human face" if you will, and of course giving credit to its breadth and depth, not just a wave in the world wars era.

2. What caught my interest was the discussion of El Paso as a border town, with Wilkerson not meaning as a U.S./Mexico border but as a Deep South/free Southwest border. The idea of a western "Mason-Dixon" if you will intrigued me as something I had not considered before, as well of course the real blurriness of those borders anyway beyond the changing of signs or railcar attachments.

3. I would love to see one of those guides Wilkerson talks about, that people used to hopefully find a hotel they could stay at or a restaurant that was "safe," assuming it wasn't out of date. I wonder how many of those are still around, hiding in attics or keepsake boxes.

4. I was thinking about having them plan a trip across the country by road and/or train, calculating time, needs, costs and planning the specific route with stops... then randomly handing out "roadblocks," things that go wrong on the trip or adding complications such as they have a sick toddler or people refuse services to them at a stop, or being arrested for sleeping in your car on the side of the road (I kept wondering how Robert was going to avoid that. It seems incredibly stupid or incredibly brave of him to take on that trip alone.)

Isabel Wilkerson's FB post a couple of days ago.  Sadly, it touches on the question at hand.

This column tonight in the Opinionator section of the NY Times online, is also relevant. It traces the Zimmerman defense back to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.

Wilkerson's shout out to our chat.  Hopefully, we can spread the word even more about the message of the book.

Isabel Wilkerson has a column in this Sunday's NY Times Review section on the sociology in Florida that may have led to the death of Trayvon Martin. You may read it here:

Thanks for sharing Bill-eye opening.

I saw a Twiitter comment today asking teachers if they were discussing Trayvon Martin in class or if they were staying away from the topic and why. Since I am in the next town it is a hot topic that is pretty unavoidable in the classroom.  I am just curious to see how the teachers chat are addressing this if you are indeed addressing it.  Please share.

Since I am retired, I no longer have a classroom in which to discuss things like this. However, you can bet anything you want that, if I were still actively teaching, my students and I would be discussing this from a variety of angles. In US History, we'd be looking at it from the perspective of how race relations have changed over the course of our history (if indeed they have). The big change I see here is that it is unlikely that the white community, the major press, political leaders, etc. would have shown the outrage that has been communicated from so many quarters. Likewise, the victim's family and friends would have been silenced too. Unfortunately, the other side is that the racism that is so evident in the crime itself as well as from the pronouncements of those defending the killer can be seen over and over again at most points in our history. I'm sure we'd also be discussing the opinion piece from the New York Times a few days ago:

1. I don't believe we have. I think in many ways it is politely buried deep beneath surface, only to some to see the light of public scrutiny when tragic events like the death of Trayvon Martin bring on the television cameras. My husband is in the U.S. Coast Guard and it is well known there are some duty stations where the Coast Guard simply will not assign African American members to serve, because of the history and racial climate in the area. So no, I feel we've far from reconciled.

2. "Robert was feeling sick now. It was too late to turn back and who knew what he was heading into? The man told him to gear himself up. The man didn't use the term, and nobody had bothered to tell Robert ahead of time, but some colored people who had made the journey called it James Crow in California. 'You will see it, and it'll hit you where it hurts,' the man said."

3. I am with Suzanne - I'd love to see one of the guides Wilkerson references in this part of the book. I'd never heard of these and find would be fascinated to see one.

4. My mind immediately went to the idea of students creating their own guide - what will they need, where can they plan to stop - or not. What powerful realizations could result from a comparison to today!


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