Welcome to the book club discussion of The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson, brought to you by Drop the I-Word and Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Each week on Wednesday we will be posting questions on the Drop the I-Word blog to help structure and deconstruct the reading, and encourage readers to join in the discussion on Facebook. You can join in at any time by checking out our reading plan and discussion guide.

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The Warmth of Other Suns: Discussion Week 1 (pp.1-123)

"What binds these stories together was the back against the wall, reluctant yet 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." - Isabel Wilkerson

This past week we read from the beginning of the book through the end of  "A Burdensome Labor." We've started to learn about some of the conditions that led to the Great Migration and we've been introduced to Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. As we follow along with their beautifully told stories, we're getting a glimpse into how the seeds were planted for them to leave and all that they risked living under Jim Crow.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What's been most surprising about the reading so far?

  2. The Warmth of Other Suns combines a sweeping historical perspective with vivid intimate portraits of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. What is the value of this dual focus, of shifting between the panoramic and the close-up? In what ways are Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster representative of the millions of other migrants who journeyed from South to North?

  3. In many ways The Warmth of Other Suns seeks to tell a new story--about the Great Migration of Black people from the South to the North and those who stayed--and to set the record straight about the true significance of that migration. "What were the major economic, social, and historical forces that sparked the Great Migration? Why did blacks leave in such great numbers from1915 to 1970?

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Additional comments or questions? Post them to the Drop the I-Word Facebook page or Twitter with the hashtag #GreatMigration. 

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