The Warmth of Other Suns Summary – July 2022

Author: Isabel Wilkerson

Short Summary
The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) is a journey of American life – a journey like those taken by thousands of Negroes Northward every year. But what distinguishes it from the thousands of other migrations is that it was not undertaken by choice. It is the record of what happens to human beings when, for decades, they are caged in by discrimination, segregation, poverty, and racial hate; when they are whipped into submission to the demands of their overlords, and when they have few places left to turn.
the warmth of other suns summary
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

The narratives in the book are Ida Mae Gladney, a sharecropper from Mississippi who moved to Chicago; George Starling, and a Florida migrant who moved to New York. The book follows them through the difficulties of the Great Migration and what it was like for black Americans in the North and South. Throughout the book, we see through their eyes the segregation, poverty, and inequality they faced as they struggled to fit into their new surroundings. Although the three stories are not directly connected, we see how each of their lives is affected by the movement throughout the book. Through their stories, Wilkerson educates us on the resilience of African Americans and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for their families.

The stories were cold, yet heartbreaking at times. Wilkerson’s writing style captures every emotion these migrants went through, making this book so vivid that you can almost feel what they felt as you read. The stories will resonate with you long after you finish reading.

The Warmth of Other Suns Summary Key Points

People migrated to diverse places, and it was a great migration

In the early 20th century, Black Americans were in a state of transition. Following the end of slavery, Black Americans migrated from the rural south to Northern cities in hopes of finding economic opportunities that were often cut off for them in the south.

The Great Migration is the name given to the period from 1916 to 1970 when millions of African Americans left the South to live in Northern and Western cities. More than 6 million people moved up north. Many more continued moving to the West and overseas.  Some moved to the north, some to the west, and some to the Midwest. Also, they didn’t see themselves as coming to escape the South until later in the movement. In the beginning, most of the people who migrated were in a cost-benefit analysis model. They saw that they could earn more money in Northern or Western cities that had heavy industry and didn’t have Jim Crow laws. These industrial centers had fewer low-wage jobs in comparison to agricultural jobs that were left behind in the South.

The Great Migration happened for many different reasons, and people left and went to diverse places throughout it. Some were looking for jobs, and others were escaping a lack of social services or lynching, so what happened from 1915-1970 is a more complicated story than we’ve been taught. Wilkerson believes that we should look into our history with the same honesty that we teach our children about other major historical events.

Ida Mae and her family were an example, they move for a safer life

Sharecropping was common practice in the southeastern part of the United States. Unfortunately, the system broke down during the Great Depression, and by 1937, with the cotton market on a downturn, the Banks family tried to find a better life in California. The Banks’ dilemma was shared by thousands of African-Americans from the South who left their homes during this period. The majority of people arriving from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee were seeking financial opportunities and relief from the violence of lynching and racial discrimination.

The United States experienced depression and conditions on the farm became increasingly difficult. With no money coming in, Ida Mae and her husband George made the difficult decision to move north to Chicago to find work. On the train ride to Chicago, Ida Mae wrote in her diary that she was leaving Mississippi because it was too dangerous for her children.

In 1939, Ida Mae and George moved into a small apartment in Bonneville on Chicago’s South Side. While living in Bonneville, Ida Mae struggled to find good childcare for her four children. Most of the available childcare options required money, which Ida Mae did not have while working odd jobs.

Idle Mae didn’t get all the benefits, she hoped for before moving to Chicago

Like so many others, Ida Mae left the South to find a better future. Like many other workers, Ida Mae found herself amid a serious battle with her employer. In an attempt to change her life, she made a drastic decision by bringing her employer to court and filing for unemployment benefits. It was a move that Ida Mae would later regret.

In her 60s Ida Mae left Mississippi and headed to Chicago hoping for a better life. The Great Migration meant better opportunities for many, but it wasn’t necessarily easy all the time. Idling in Chicago, Ida Mae entered the workforce but like many others didn’t see all of the benefits that she had hoped that moving would bring. She was hired to work at a washing and ironing place, where she worked hard, but made very little money because the black who live there, also didn’t support them. They were not happy with the migration because of the low-paying jobs.

So, It was very difficult for them to find a job after moving, but Idle was finally employed in the hospital and then moved to a bigger apartment than before. Chicago became Ida Mae’s eventual home, but moving didn’t change her life as she had hoped. When Ida Mae made it to Chicago, she thought it looked like heaven. She saw cars and people, beautiful homes, and streets lined with trees.

The Warmth of Other Suns Quotes

“They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.” -Isabel Wilkerson

“It occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography could not save me.” –Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns Summary Review

The Warmth of Other Suns is not a bad book at all. It is a good and interesting book if you have an interest in reading history. Unlikely, I didn’t enjoy it because I’m not much into history. Through this book, you’ll also learn some important life lessons. Recommended.

To whom I would recommend The Warmth of Other Suns Summary?

  • AIs anyone in reading US history.
  • Any history student wants to learn more by himself.
  • Anyone who loves forces.

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