Janet Maslin in the Times on Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, The Warmth of Other Suns, which documents the ways that blacks sought to flee the Jim Crow south.
She has documented the sweeping 55-year-long migration of black Americans across their own country….
Ms. Wilkerson makes a case that people who left the South only to create hometown-based communities in new places are more like refugees than migrants: more closely tied to their old friends and families, more apt to form tight expatriate groups, more enduringly attached to the areas they left behind. She argues that these people, among them her Georgia-born mother and Virginia-born father who raised Ms. Wilkerson in Washington, D.C., were better educated and more closely tied to their families than other scholars have assumed. She works on a grand, panoramic scale but also on a very intimate one, since this work of living history boils down to the tenderly told stories of three rural Southerners who immigrated to big cities from their hometowns.
…Ms. Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,200 people whose lives had followed the same basic pattern: early years in the South followed by relocation in either the North or the West.