During 1910 and 1970, over six million blacks departed the oppression of the South and relocated to western and northern cities in the United States, an event identified as the Great Migration. The Warmth of Other Suns is a powerful non-fiction book that illustrates this movement and introduces the world to one of the most prominent events in African American history. Wilkerson conveys a sense of authenticity as she not only articulates the accounts of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, but also intertwines the tales of some 1,200 travelers who made a single decision that would later change the world. Wilkerson utilizes a variety of disciplines including sociology, psychology, and economics in order to document and praise the separate struggles but shared courage of three individuals and their families during the Great Migration.
Similarly, the book’s three leading protagonists ultimately possess a common objective, escaping their unjust circumstances in pursuit of seeking the “warmth of other suns.” For this reason, they abandon the laws of Jim Crow and the familiarity of their hometowns as they flee to a better life. In the process, they all assume a level of risk in their decisions to rebel against the system. For example, Ida decides to embark on a precarious journey while in the beginning stages of a clandestine pregnancy. Any number of unpredictable events could have resulted from this judgment, including fatality. All of the migrants shared an unspoken agreement that the rewards would far outweigh the dangers involved.
Another link between these three characters is their family ties. They highly regard their elders, and consider the effects of the decisions they make on their relatives. For instance, George loved his wife and children, but he knew that if he remained in Florida there was no hope of him being around to support them. All three of their decisions were not based upon selfish intentions; they were leaving in order to shield future generations from the same life they encountered. While Robert’s children were higher on the social ladder, they were feeding off their grandfather’s money. Robert left Louisiana in order to build a life where he was not trapped under the hand of segregation, but uninhibited to pursue an honest career that would permit him to support his family.
From a sociological perspective, these three individuals had different factors influencing their migration. Sociology is simply the study of society. Ida Mae and her husband knew it was their time to escape the South after her cousin was incorrectly blamed for stealing a turkey from a white man and was practically beaten to death. Ida Mae and her family had done their best to obey society’s expectations by avoiding trouble and keeping their head down. Unfortunately, this was insignificant as they became aware that it was not long before a common misconception would place them in the same situation. In that...