A book recommendation on behalf of BSPC’s Racial Justice Initiative:
I grew up in California and attended Washington Union High School located outside of Fresno, California in the 1960s. It was a small country high school that included some of the predominantly Black areas next to Fresno. My high school had no cafeteria, little maintenance budget (the roof started to fall in after I graduated), the books were falling apart and many of the teachers were those that couldn’t get better paying jobs in Fresno City Schools. Worse, only half of my freshman class stayed around to graduate.
Once I asked my mother why the community tolerated such a poor-quality education system. She told me that the farmers wanted to drive the Black kids out – they didn’t want to pay for their education. At the time that response made no sense to me, because I didn’t yet understand the racism that was behind it, but it did leave me deeply troubled. Little did I know that what I saw as a young girl would be detailed so well in Isabel Wilkerson’s first book, The Warmth of Other Suns.
Wilkerson’s book provides us with an understanding of the Great Migration (1915 – 1970) which led millions of Black people to leave the south and move north and west for what they hoped would be a better life. Against the sweeping drama of this migration, she focuses on three people who search, hope and dream of a better life. She tells us their struggles and their triumphs. She tells us of the racism they faced and the sacrifices they had to make. She shows us how communities responded to this migration.
What aspects of this story have you experienced yourself? Were any of your family members part of the Great Migration? How can white people unpack their own complicity in the conditions that led to the Great Migration? Read Isabel Wilkerson’s absolutely amazing and engrossing book, The Warmth of Other Suns, and sign up to join our in-person discussion on Sunday, July 9 at 11:30 a.m. in Palmer Hall.
-Written by Sally Van Meter
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