Cover image for The Warmth of Other Suns
Title:
The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
Author:
Wilkerson, Isabel
Subject:
History
African American Nonfiction
Nonfiction
Description:
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNERLYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNERHEARTLAND AWARD WINNER DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE FINALIST NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYThe New York Times • USA TodayO: The Oprah MagazineAmazonPublishers Weekly • SalonNewsday • The Daily Beast NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BYThe New Yorker • The Washington Post • The Economist • Boston GlobeSan Francisco Chronicle • Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly • Philadelphia Inquirer • The GuardianThe Seattle TimesSt. Louis Post-Dispatch The Christian Science Monitor From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an "unrecognized immigration" within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Vintage
Date:
2010/09/07
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER
LYNTON HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
HEARTLAND AWARD WINNER
DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE FINALIST

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times * USA Today * O: The Oprah Magazine * Amazon * Publishers Weekly * Salon * Newsday * The Daily Beast

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker * The Washington Post * The Economist * Boston Globe * San Francisco Chronicle * Chicago
Tribune * Entertainment Weekly * Philadelphia Inquirer * The Guardian * The Seattle Times * St. Louis Post-Dispatch * The Christian Science Monitor

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an "unrecognized immigration" within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.


Author Notes

Isabel Wilkerson was born in Washington, D.C. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Howard University. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African-American to win for individual reporting. She also won the George Polk Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award for Nonfiction, the 2011 Hillman Book Prize, the 2011 Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize, the Independent Literary Award for Nonfiction, and the NAACP Image Award for best literary debut. She has been a journalism professor at Princeton University and Emory University. She is currently Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Library Journal Review

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.


Publisher's Weekly Review

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


Booklist Review

*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


New York Review of Books Review

In the winter of 1916, as Americans read the news of unimaginable slaughter in a distant yet rapidly spreading European war, it was easy to overlook stories like the one in The Chicago Defender reporting that several black families in Selma, Ala., had left the South. A popular African-American weekly, The Defender would publish dozens of such stories in the coming years, heralding the good jobs and friendly neighbors that awaited these migrants in Chicago, even printing train schedules to point the way north. Smuggled into Southern railroad depots by Pullman porters, dropped off by barnstorming black athletes and entertainers, The Defender emerged as both cheerleader and chronicler of an exodus that would lead about six million AfricanAmericans to abandon the states of the Old Confederacy between 1915 and 1970. "If all of their dream does not come true," it confidently predicted, "enough will come to pass to justify their actions." Prophetic words, indeed, Isabel Wilkerson insists in "The Warmth of Other Suns," her massive and masterly account of the Great Migration. Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing at The New York Times in 1994 and currently teaches journalism at Boston University, has a personal stake in the story. Her mother left rural Georgia, her father southern Virginia, to settle in Washington, D.C. Wilkerson knows well the highly charged nature of this field. For many years, commentators routinely demeaned these migrants as the dregs of a failed society. Even the distinguished black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier fretted over the "ignorant, uncouth and impoverished" throngs that had invaded his beloved Chicago. Arguments raged for decades about the tangled pathology of black families divided from their rural roots and thrown together in dead-end Northern slums. "The migrants were cast as poor illiterates," Wilkerson says, "who imported out-of-wedlock births, joblessness and welfare dependency wherever they went." But the more recent scholarship, which Wilkerson embraces, tells another story. Today, these black migrants are viewed as a modern version of the Europeans who flooded America's shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s. What linked them together, Wilkerson writes, was their heroic determination to roll the dice for a better future. It is no surprise, therefore, to find census data showing that blacks who left the South had far more schooling than blacks who stayed. Or that the migrants had higher employment numbers than Northern-born blacks and a more stable family life, as shown by lower divorce rates and fewer children born outside of marriage. Put simply, Wilkerson says, the well-known "migrant advantage" has worked historically for Americans of all colors. "The Warmth of Other Suns" is Wilkerson's first book. (Its title is borrowed from the celebrated black writer Richard Wright, who fled Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1920s to feel the warmth of those other suns.) Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today's shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable as to land the author a future place on Oprah's couch. WILKERSON follows the journey of three Southern blacks, each representing a different decade of the Great Migration as well as a different destination. It's a shrewd storytelling device, because it allows her to highlight two issues often overlooked: first, that the exodus was a continuous phenomenon spanning six decades of American life; second, that it consisted of not one, but rather three geographical streams, the patterns determined by the train routes available to those bold enough to leave. People from Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi boarded the Illinois Central to Midwestern cities like Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit; those from Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia rode the Seaboard Air Line up the East Coast to Washington, Philadelphia and New York; those in Louisiana and Texas took the Union Pacific to Los Angeles, Oakland and other parts of the West Coast. Wilkerson is superb at minding the bends and detours along the way. She notes, for example, that some migrants, unfamiliar with the conductor's Northern accent, would mistakenly get off at the cry of "Penn Station, Newark," the stop just before Penn Station, New York. Many decided to stay put, she adds, giving Newark "a good portion of its black population." The first of Wilkerson's three main characters, and plainly her favorite, is Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife from Mississippi. Married at 16, the mother of three, Ida Mae lived to serve her husband, George, whose dire prospects reflected the feudal Southern agriculture that had replaced slavery after the Civil War. Each December, at "settling time," George would meet with Mr. Edd, the white landowner, to learn how he had done. In a malevolent ritual, played out across the cotton South, Mr. Edd would open his ledger book to prove that the annual debt for supplies bought on credit almost exactly matched the value of George's annual crop. George Gladney didn't know much about arithmetic, but he did know the dangers of challenging a white man's figures. So he'd thank Mr. Edd and return to his shack with a few dollars to show for a year's worth of backbreaking toil. In 1937, a cousin down the road was beaten almost to death by a white posse that wrongly suspected him of stealing a few of Mr. Edd's turkeys. Fearing he'd be next, and tired of working dawn to dusk for pennies, George told Ida Mae to pack up the family. A few days later, they boarded the Jim Crow car of an Illinois Central train heading north. They eventually settled in Chicago, where George found work in a Campbell Soup factory, Ida Mae in a hospital. There no longer were "colored" and "white" signs to degrade them, but the specter of racial caste was omnipresent. The Gladneys survived by exploiting the small but significant advantages of Northern life, while retaining the work ethic of their rural Mississippi roots. In one especially telling episode, Ida Mae had to decide whether to join a strike against her hospital or cross an angry picket line in order to pay the monthly bills. It wasn't a hard decision, Wilkerson explains. "The concept of not working a job one had agreed to do was alien to Ida Mae." The other main characters, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, also had compelling reasons to leave the South. Starling, the valedictorian of his "colored" high school class in central Florida, had dropped out of college when his money ran out and gone to work picking citrus in the fields. Appalled by the conditions, he tried to organize a work stoppage; a friend warned him that the local growers, backed by a homicidal sheriff, were planning to lynch him. In 1945, Starling boarded the Silver Meteor bound for New York. Foster, from Monroe, La., had the most privileged background of the three. The son of demanding middle-class parents, educated at Morehouse, the most prestigious black college in America, trained as a surgeon, Foster wasn't about to waste away in the small-minded South, delivering sharecroppers' babies and being paid with "the side of a freshly killed hog." Monroe was known for sending its migrants to California, a route taken by the parents of the future basketball star Bill Russell and of the Black Panther leader Huey Newton. In 1951, Foster joined that western stream. Both Starling and Foster represent the contradictions of the Great Migration. Starling took a porter's job on the same Silver Meteor that once brought him north. The life he led in Harlem was richer than anything he could have imagined. But he also knew that the migrants now riding his train would reap the blessings of a civil rights movement that were unavailable to him: history had come too late for the once promising student from the citrus groves. Foster, for his part, matured into one of Los Angeles's finest surgeons. But his rejection of his Southern roots was so exaggerated, Wilkerson says, as to leave him adrift, nursing ancient wounds, unable to relish the blessings of his life. THE book is not without problems, however. One is repetition: a number of anecdotes and descriptions appear more than once. Another is omission. Though she relies on many sources, Wilkerson ignores Nicholas Lemann's classic 1991 account of the black migration to Chicago, "The Promised Land," which paints a somber portrait of its impact upon the migrants and their progeny. In contrast, Wilkerson has little to say about the following generation or its problems beyond a cheerful listing of politicians, athletes, musicians, writers and film stars who got the opportunity "to grow up free of Jim Crow and to be their fuller selves" because their parents had joined the Great Migration. Some historians, moreover, may question Wilkerson's approach to her subject. She tends to privilege the migrants' personal feelings over structural influences like the coming of the mechanical cotton picker, which pushed untold thousands of Southern blacks from the fields, or the intense demand for wartime factory labor, which pulled thousands more to manufacturing cities in the North. Wilkerson is well aware of these push-pull factors. She has simply chosen to treat them in a way that makes the most sense to her. What bound these migrants together, she explains, was both their need to escape the violent, humiliating confines of the segregationist South and their "hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left." In 1998, Wilkerson accompanied Ida Mae Gladney on a visit to Mississippi. It was October, and cotton was still in the fields. "We cross a gravel road," Wilkerson writes, and "Ida Mae said, her eyes growing big, 'Let's go pick some.'" Wilkerson wasn't thrilled by the prospect of two black women trespassing on what was very likely a white man's plot of ground, but Gladney insisted. "It's as if she can't wait to pick it now that she doesn't have to," Wilkerson writes. "It's the first time in her life that she can pick cotton of her own free will." The experience fired old memories. "I just couldn't do it," Gladney confessed. "I'd pick and cry. I ain't never liked the field." The next day found her at the local cemetery, surveying the headstones of people she left behind long ago. "Ida Mae, you gonna be buried down here?" her brother-in-law asks. "No, I'm gonna be in Chicago," she replies. The South is behind her. Chicago is home. David Oshinsky, a frequent contributor to the Book Review, is the author of "Polio: An American Story," which won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2006.


Choice Review

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


Kirkus Review

In her ambitious debut, Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Wilkerson (Journalism, Narrative Nonfiction/Boston Univ.) examines the Great Migration of African-Americans from World War I to the 1970s.The author interviewed more than 1,200 people for this sweeping history, which focuses mainly on the personal stories of three Southern African-Americans who uprooted their lives to move to other parts of America: Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife who moved from rural Mississippi in the midst of the Great Depression, eventually landing in Chicago; George Swanson Starling, who went from picking fruit in north Florida to becoming a train attendant in 1940s New York; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, an accomplished surgeon who moved from northern Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Wilkerson uses their histories to tell the larger story of how institutionalized racism helped spur the Great Migration of millions of Southern African-Americans to northern, midwestern and western states. Gladney and her family decided to leave Mississippi after a relative, suspected of stealing turkeys, was nearly beaten to death by whites. Starling, after leading an attempted sit-down strike of some African-American fruit-pickers, fled Florida under threat of death. Foster moved to California because no Southern hospitals would hire an African-American surgeon; whites in the South wouldn't even call him "Dr. Foster," but "spat out 'Doc' as if they were addressing the cook." Though each of Wilkerson's subjects faced discrimination in the North as well, they felt a greater sense of freedom to pursue their own visions of the American dream. The author deftly intersperses their stories with short vignettes about other individuals and consistently provides the bigger picture without interrupting the flow of the narrative. While other fine books, such as Ira Berlin's The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations(2010), address many of the same themes, Wilkerson's focus on the personal aspect lends her book a markedly different, more accessible tone. Her powerful storytelling style, as well, gives this decades-spanning history a welcome novelistic flavor.An impressive take on the Great Migration, and a truly auspicious debut.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Part One   In the Land of the Forefathers   Our mattresses were made of corn shucks and soft gray Spanish moss that hung from the trees. . . . From the swamps we got soup turtles and baby alligators and from the woods we got raccoon, rabbit and possum.   --Mahalia Jackson, Movin' On Up Leaving   This land is first and foremost his handiwork. It was he who brought order out of primeval wilderness . . . Wherever one looks in this land, whatever one sees that is the work of man, was erected by the toiling straining bodies of blacks.   --David L. Cohn, God Shakes Creation     They fly from the land that bore them.   --W. H. Stillwell       1   Chickasaw County, Mississippi, Late October 1937   Ida Mae Brandon Gladney     The night clouds were closing in on the salt licks east of the oxbow lakes along the folds in the earth beyond the Yalobusha River. The cotton was at last cleared from the field. Ida Mae tried now to get the children ready and to gather the clothes and quilts and somehow keep her mind off the churning within her. She had sold off the turkeys and doled out in secret the old stools, the wash pots, the tin tub, the bed pallets. Her husband was settling with Mr. Edd over the worth of a year's labor, and she did not know what would come of it. None of them had been on a train before--not unless you counted the clattering local from Bacon Switch to Okolona, where, "by the time you sit down, you there," as Ida Mae put it. None of them had been out of Mississippi. Or Chickasaw County, for that matter.   There was no explaining to little James and Velma the stuffed bags and chaos and all that was at stake or why they had to put on their shoes and not cry and bring undue attention from anyone who might happen to see them leaving. Things had to look normal, like any other time they might ride into town, which was rare enough to begin with.   Velma was six. She sat with her ankles crossed and three braids in her hair and did what she was told. James was too little to understand. He was three. He was upset at the commotion. Hold still now, James. Lemme put your shoes on, Ida Mae told him. James wriggled and kicked. He did not like shoes. He ran free in the field. What were these things? He did not like them on his feet. So Ida Mae let him go barefoot.   Miss Theenie stood watching. One by one, her children had left her and gone up north. Sam and Cleve to Ohio. Josie to Syracuse. Irene to Milwaukee. Now the man Miss Theenie had tried to keep Ida Mae from marrying in the first place was taking her away, too. Miss Theenie had no choice but to accept it and let Ida Mae and the grandchildren go for good. Miss Theenie drew them close to her, as she always did whenever anyone was leaving. She had them bow their heads. She whispered a prayer that her daughter and her daughter's family be protected on the long journey ahead in the Jim Crow car.   "May the Lord be the first in the car," she prayed, "and the last out."   When the time had come, Ida Mae and little James and Velma and all that they could carry were loaded into a brother-in-law's truck, and the three of them went to meet Ida Mae's husband at the train depot in Okolona for the night ride out of the bottomland.     2   Wildwood, Florida, April 14, 1945   George Swanson Starling     A man named Roscoe Colton gave Lil George Starling a ride in his pickup truck to the train station in Wildwood through the fruit-bearing scrubland of central Florida. And Schoolboy, as the toothless orange pickers mockingly called him, boarded the Silver Meteor pointing north.   A railing divided the stairs onto the train, one side of the railing for white passengers, the other for colored, so the soles of their shoes would not touch the same stair. He boarded on the colored side of the railing, a final reminder from the place of his birth of the absurdity of the world he was leaving.   He was getting out alive. So he didn't let it bother him. "I got on the car where they told me to get on," he said years later.   He hadn't had time to bid farewell to everyone he wanted to. He stopped to say good-bye to Rachel Jackson, who owned a little café up on what they called the Avenue and the few others he could safely get to in the little time he had. He figured everybody in Egypt town, the colored section of Eustis, probably knew he was leaving before he had climbed onto the train, small as the town was and as much as people talked.   It was a clear afternoon in the middle of April. He folded his tall frame into the hard surface of the seat, his knees knocking against the seat back in front of him. He was packed into the Jim Crow car, where the railroad stored the luggage, when the train pulled away at last. He was on the run, and he wouldn't rest easy until he was out of range of Lake County, beyond the reach of the grove owners whose invisible laws he had broken.   The train rumbled past the forest of citrus trees that he had climbed since he was a boy and that he had tried to wrestle some dignity out of and, for a time, had. They could have their trees. He wasn't going to lose his life over them. He had come close enough as it was.   He had lived up to his family's accidental surname. Starling. Distant cousin to the mockingbird. He had spoken up about what he had seen in the world he was born into, like the starling that sang Mozart's own music back to him or the starling out of Shakespeare that tormented the king by speaking the name of Mortimer. Only, George was paying the price for tormenting the ruling class that owned the citrus groves. There was no place in the Jim Crow South for a colored starling like him.   He didn't know what he would do once he got to New York or what his life would be. He didn't know how long it would take before he could send for Inez. His wife was mad right now, but she'd get over it once he got her there. At least that's what he told himself. He turned his face to the North and sat with his back to Florida.   Leaving as he did, he figured he would never set foot in Eustis again for as long as he lived. And as he settled in for the twenty-three-hour train ride up the coast of the Atlantic, he had no desire to have anything to do with the town he grew up in, the state of Florida, or the South as a whole, for that matter.     3   Monroe, Louisiana, Easter Monday, April 6, 1953   Robert Joseph Pershing Foster     In the dark hours of the morning, Pershing Foster packed his surgery books, his medical bag, and his suit and sport coats in the trunk, along with a map, an address book, and Ivorye Covington's fried chicken left over from Saturday night.   He said good-bye to his father, who had told him to follow his dreams. His father's dreams had fallen apart, but there was still hope for the son, the father knew. He had a reluctant embrace with his older brother, Madison, who had tried in vain to get him to stay. Then Per- shing pointed his 1949 Buick Roadmaster, a burgundy one with whitewall tires and a shark-tooth grille, in the direction of Five Points, the crossroads of town.   He drove down the narrow dirt roads with the ditches on either side that, when he was a boy, had left his freshly pressed Sunday suit caked with mud when it rained. He passed the shotgun houses perched on cinder blocks and hurtled over the railroad tracks away from where people who looked like him were consigned to live and into the section where the roads were not dirt ditches anymore but suddenly level and paved.   He headed in the direction of Desiard Street, the main thorough- fare, and, without a whiff of sentimentality, sped away from the small-town bank buildings and bail bondsmen, the Paramount Theater with its urine-scented steps, and away from St. Francis Hospital, which wouldn't let doctors who looked like him perform a simple tonsillectomy.   Perhaps he might have stayed had they let him practice surgery like he was trained to do or let him walk into the Palace and try on a suit like anyone else of his station. The resentments had grown heavy over the years. He knew he was as smart as anybody else--smarter, to his mind--but he wasn't allowed to do anything with it, the caste system being what it was. Now he was going about as far away as you could get from Monroe, Louisiana. The rope lines that had hemmed in his life seemed to loosen with each plodding mile on the odometer.   Like many of the men in the Great Migration and like many emigrant men in general, he was setting out alone. He would scout out the New World on his own and get situated before sending for anyone else. He drove west into the morning stillness and onto the Endom Bridge, a tight crossing with one lane acting like two that spans the Ouachita River into West Monroe. He would soon pass the mossback flatland of central Louisiana and the Red River toward Texas, where he was planning to see an old friend from medical school, a Dr. Anthony Beale, en route to California.   Pershing had no idea where he would end up in California or how he would make a go of it or when he would be able to wrest his wife and daughters from the in-laws who had tried to talk him out of going to California in the first place. He would contemplate these uncertainties in the unbroken days ahead.   From Louisiana, he followed the hyphens in the road that blurred together toward a faraway place, bridging unrelated things as hyphens do. Alone in the car, he had close to two thousand miles of curving road in front of him, farther than farmworker emigrants leaving Guatemala for Texas, not to mention Tijuana for California, where a northerly wind could blow a Mexican clothesline over the border. From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.