Each month, NACCHO will bring you a new public health book, read and reviewed by NACCHO staff. We hope to provide a well-rounded reading list that you will find enjoyable as well as informative.
The Warmth of Other Suns shares incredible stories of Black Americans who left the south during the Great Migration and came up north, where they envisioned a life without the constraints of Jim Crow. While almost six million people migrated north from 1915 to 1970, the author Isabel Wilkerson, herself the child of someone who made the journey from the south to Washington, DC, weaves in many stories, while focusing the narrative on three people in particular. These narratives show that while the north was seen as a promise land of freedom and opportunity, that was not necessarily the case for many who left everything behind.
Through captivating story-telling, Wilkerson shares clear examples of the roots of institutional racism; how the north and west were not all they seemed to be to those dreaming in the south, and how policies that were meant to exclude and disenfranchise Black Americans played out on a personal level. The effects of these policies of institutional racism are still felt today and play a role in education, job opportunities, and health.
I admittedly knew very little about the Great Migration until reading this book and it put concepts of institutional racism into much clearer focus for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough.