I remember hearing stories about families moving "up north" from what we called "down south"

In her book The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson gives a thorough account of the Great Migration (the mass exodus of over six million African Americans who migrated from the southern regions of the U.S. to the northern).

The "Black Exodus" was motivated by several factors and is a crucial element in America's history and culture. Wilkerson's investigative research presents a multifaceted approach to understanding the reasons blacks migrated from the south to the north.

Ms. Wilkerson spent fifteen years working on her book and had interviewed over a thousand people before settling on three key individuals who reflect the different waves of the migration period.

These three individuals, Ida Gladney, George Starling and Robert Foster, represent the great migration from different perspectives, and their struggles reveal several challenges Southerners faced in migrating to an unfamiliar place.

Wilkerson presents a narrative of these three individuals in a chronological framework that reflects the psychological and social atmosphere of each time period.

By tracking the lives of these key individuals, in a philosophical sense "their story becomes our story" because to a large extent most African Americans are either directly or indirectly connected to the "Great Migration."

Several works have been produced to depict the social and psychological affects of the great migration in music, art, literature and visual media.

As an artist Jacob Lawrence received a grant to paint a 60 panel series of the Great Migration in 1940, being a product of the Great Migration himself: The Great Migration Series.

Several Poets wrote about their experience of the Great Migration:

Goin' to Chicago. ( A documentary about the Great Migration features poems written by, Langston Hughes and William Crosse)

A story about the Great Migration by Eloise Greenfield written for children called: The Great Migration: Journey to the North.

Can you tell us about experiences you've had that relate to the Great Migration, or maybe stories about someone in your family migrating from another country to the U.S.?

Written by J.Allen on May 8, 2012


Jinnie on May 15, 2012


Another story from the Great Migration is the migration of blues music from the South to the North. This is documented well in Martin Scorcese's PBS series on The Blues, specifically the episode called Godfathers and Sons. Looks like DPL has five copies of this episode.


Yes, Jinnie, The Martin Sorcese's series are really great, in fact the way in which the migration affected the culture in other parts of the U.S. is well noted in her book.

Leave a comment