Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Readers of this book should be warned. This is not traditional history; it is, however, good history. Using the lives of three African Americans whose stories personified the migration of southern rural blacks to northern cities, Wilkerson (journalism, Boston Univ.) takes a known but seldom understood demographic transformation of the US and makes it a compelling narrative. Through the text, the author offers insight into the great migration between 1915 and 1970, US race relations, the dynamics of African American life both southern and northern, the civil rights movement, and the pervasive influence of kinship. The story puts the great migration clearly in the context of immigration, albeit with a significant twist, in that the migrants were Americans to begin with. Based on numerous interviews with not only the individuals whose story the author is telling, but also with those who added depth to those stories, the book is a good demonstration of the use of oral history. To historians accustomed to a crisper chronology, the book will be frustrating, but that should not negate the importance of this contribution. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduate and graduate readers as well as the general public. T. F. Armstrong Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UAE
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Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson's epic and intimate scholarly portrait of the Great Migration of southern African Americans to the North is the first comprehensive study of that movement. Previous works have focused on regional migrations and James N. Gregory's The Southern Diaspora deals with the comprehensive migration of both whites and African Americans to the North. Covering the time period from 1915 through 1970, Wilkerson (journalism, Boston Univ.) explains the Great Migration through oral histories, research from newspaper articles, and other scholarly works. She shatters previous scholarship that defined these migrants as poor, illiterate, jobless, and dependent on welfare through thorough research of demographic and census records. Wilkerson, whose mother was a part of the Great Migration, discusses the movement's effects on culture and politics through the oral histories she gathered from her three protagonists; they speak and simply tell their stories. Verdict A portrait that is rooted in scholarly research and gives this pivotal part of American history a personality, this will be a great addition for academics, historians, and researchers in Africana, as well as American cultural studies.-Suzan Alteri, Wayne State Univ., Detroit (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* From the early twentieth century through its midpoint, some six million black southerners relocated themselves, their labor, and their lives, to the North, changing the course of civil, social, and economic life in the U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson offers a broad and penetrating look at the Great Migration, a movement without leaders or precedent. Drawing on interviews and archival research, Wilkerson focuses on three individuals with varying reasons for leaving the South the relentless poverty of sharecropping with few other opportunities, escalating racial violence, and greater social and economic prospects in the North. She traces their particular life stories, the sometimes furtive leave-takings; the uncertainties they faced in Chicago, New York, and L.A.; and the excitement and longing for freer, more prosperous lives. She contrasts their hopes and aspirations with the realities of life in northern cities when the jobs eventually evaporated from the inner cities and new challenges arose. Wilkerson intersperses historical detail of the broader movement and the sparks that set off the civil rights era; challenging racial restrictions in the North and South; and the changing dynamics of race, class, geography, politics, and economics. A sweeping and stunning look at a watershed event in U.S. history.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist