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Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns

Random House

2011 Nonfiction

The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson is a prize-winning journalist who has spent most of her career as a national correspondent and bureau chief for The New York Times. Inspired by the migration of her own parents, she spent 15 years researching and writing The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010). Her account of the 20th-century migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West received the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction.

The first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, and the first black reporter to win for individual reporting, Wilkerson has also won the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. A journalism graduate of Howard University, she is currently professor of journalism and director of narrative nonfiction at Boston University. She also has served as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University and James M. Cox Professor at Emory University.

A gifted and passionate speaker, Wilkerson has spent the past year lecturing all over the world on America’s great migration.

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Blog Posts about Isabel Wilkerson

Author Isabel Wilkerson On Past And Present: "Our Current Divisions Are Neither New Nor Surprising"

Journalist Isabel Wilkerson keeps her readers connected to history.   During the summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Wilkerson gave context to swimmer Simone Manuel's historic gold medal by bringing forward the long history of blacks being barred from public pools and beaches -- and she did it in a mere 300 words. Likewise, when Clevelanders rejoiced over their first NBA championship, Wilkerson pointed out the triumph rested on LeBron James being a child of the Great Migration. She regularly uses her Facebook page to profile... Read More →

REVIEW: "The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race"

There are 108 tally marks on the cover of The Fire This Time, the new essay collection that brings forth 18 perspectives from a new generation of writers, working in the tradition of James Baldwin. Each mark represents a black life lost too soon, a visual representation of the urgency of #BlackLivesMatter. In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013, Jesmyn Ward went to Twitter to share her frustration, but found the platform too ephemeral. She was much more struck by the pertinence of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Ward... Read More →

Author Isabel Wilkerson Brings Cleveland Connection To "The Warmth Of Other Suns"

Additional reporting by Tara Jefferson When Isabel Wilkerson comes to Cleveland, she sees Alabama. An authority on the Great Migration—the departure of six million African-Americans from a South lynching them at a rate of one every four days over six decades of the 20th-century—Wilkerson is steeped in the ways of movement. She can pinpoint the families that “left along three beautifully predictable streams: up the East coast, into the Midwest and Far West.” She is conversant in the food, folkways and the names of churches that... Read More →

How Books@Work Program Allowed Readers To See Themselves In Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth Of Other Suns"

by Rachel Burstein Our experience of a book can be changed—and enriched—when we read it alongside people who are different from us. That’s the verdict from participants at a recent Books@Work program in Cleveland. The group read The Warmth of Other Suns from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. Her meticulously researched and beautifully told history of the Great Migration won a 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Books@Work is a non-profit organization that brings professor-led literature seminars into the workplace and to a... Read More →

ESSENCE Magazine Goes Dark For Historic "Black Lives Matter" Issue

For the first time in its 45-year history, Essence magazine will not use a cover model.  Instead, the African-American publication has dedicated its February 2015 issue to "Black Lives Matter," the social justice movement that has ignited in the wake of the killing of unarmed black people by law enforcement.   "Pictures are powerful, but so are words," editor-in-chief Vanessa DeLuca writes in her Letter from the Editor. "After I spoke with the editorial team — with all our souls aching for answers — we knew immediately what we had to... Read More →

Host Of The Internet's Most Lively Dinner Party, Ta-Nehisi Coates Commands The Room

At 38, Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior correspondent for The Atlantic's online property, has become one of the nation's foremost writers on race and culture. On a recent Saturday afternoon, Coates (whose first name is pronounced Tah-Nuh-Hah-See) found himself on stage at the Cleveland Public Library before a large, diverse crowd that included students from the all-male Ginn Academy, a Cleveland public high school. The boys created a crimson line in the audience in their signature red blazers. Despite the formal setting, Coates was quick to share... Read More →

"Warmth Of Other Suns" Named The 2013 Selection For Chicago's City-Wide Book Club

With so much negative news spilling out of Chicago each day, we're happy to see at least one bright spot among the tragedies. Isabel WIlkerson's 2010 work "The Warmth of Other Suns" was named the next selection of the Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One  Chicago" program, announced by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday.  Of the selection Emanuel said:  “Isabel Wilkerson’s book brings to life the stories of African Americans who left their homes in the South in search of a better life. These are the stories of people who... Read More →

VIDEO: Ayana Mathis and Oprah Winfrey Discuss Suffering In "Twelve Tribes"

Have your debut novel selected as Oprah's second selection in her book club and you must expect for your life to change, as Ayana Mathis is now finding out. Once The Twelve Tribes of Hattie received the literary world's highest blessing from Ms. Winfrey, her publisher rushed it to bookstores to capitalize on the wave of publicity soon to follow. Now, Mathis' name is on the lips of readers' everywhere, with Oprah even comparing her to the all-time great, Toni Morrison. Twelve Tribes is a book looking at generations of a family after their... Read More →

"I Have A Dream": Collections of Martin Luther King Links From Around The Web

Taylor Branch and Isabel Wilkerson were special guests of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR to discuss Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. One of our favorite quotes from the episode, from Isabel Wilkerson: "Ultimately, what Martin Luther King and the thousands upon thousands of unnamed, unknown people who buttressed his strength and his courage, what they were fighting was a structure that needed to be dismantled in order for justice to prevail in the South."  Lani Guinier, the first black woman to be appointed to a tenured professorship at... Read More →

Isabel WIlkerson Describes Jim Crow Laws In The 1950s

In an Art Works podcast hosted by the National Endowment of the Arts, Isabel Wilkerson describes what life was like for African Americans at the turn of the century, at the beginning of the "Great Migration" from the southern states to the northern. It is almost hard to believe that we are only sixty years from this type of lifestyle:  "...many of us believe that we have an understanding of it based on the pictures that we might have seen of the black and white water fountains, for example. But in many ways, that was just the least of it... Read More →

We Can't Get Enough Of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston As we wrote before, Isabel Wilkerson has been educating her fans on the impact of the Great Migration by posting stories of prominent African Americans to her Facebook page. Recently, she profiled Zora Neale Hurston, one of our favorite writers and one of the literary world's greatest treasures.  We loved what she had to say about Hurston so much that we decided to share it with you here: On this day, January 7, in 1891 or 1901, beloved author Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Ala., to Rev. John and Lucy Hurston. She grew up in the... Read More →

What Do Berry Gordy, Jimi Hendrix, and Lorraine Hansberry Have In Common?

  The answer, as 2010 winner Isabel Wilkerson would like you to know, is that they are all products of the Great Migration. Over the past few months, Wilkerson has been sharing the stories of influential African Americans on her Facebook page, connecting the dots between the past and the present.  Take a moment to browse the stories and let us know: Did you know about this piece of history? Have you read The Warmth of Other Suns? Is it a book you'd recommend to others?  Also take a look at Wilkerson's "Democracy Now" segment, where... Read More →

WE REMEMBER: August Wilson's Play, "The Piano Lesson," Debuted 25 Years Ago This Month

A photo from the 1987 premiere of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson."                     In our rush to get to Thanksgiving dinner, we missed the anniversary of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson." 2011 winner Isabel Wilkerson reminded us through a post on her Facebook page (she's just FULL of wonderful factoids about African American history), including a rare photo of Samuel L. Jackson (third from left), who starred in the play as Boy Willie.  Wilkerson writes:  It was 25... Read More →

Isabel Wilkerson Greeted By Surprise From Fan In Her Hotel Room

                      Isabel Wilkerson posted the above photo and the following message on her Facebook page - seems she has a superfan out there!  Deepest gratitude at this special time to every person who has embraced this book and the inspiring message of the Great Migration. Filled with joy for whoever created what is shown in this picture: an edible edition of The Warmth of Other Suns created with love and care by an anonymous fan. This greeted me in my room at the... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Winners Reaction To The Election

The 2012 election cycle was filled with a bombardment of political ads, 24-hour news cycles dissecting every possible angle, and an overwhelming sense of hype surrounding who will be our next batch of elected representatives. Some of our winners got in on the action and made a few comments about the election as well.  Junot Diaz, who has been writing consistently about the Latino effect in this year's election, wrote a special message on his Facebook page. "Obama WINS!" he wrote shortly after the race had been called. "The Latino community... Read More →

VIDEO: "The Great Migration Is The Story Of Most African-Americans" - Isabel Wilkerson

A full two years after her acclaimed book, The Warmth of Other Suns, was published, Isabel Wilkerson continues to work hard on the promotion trail, working to raise awareness of the Great Migration and its impact on today's culture. "They changed American culture as we know it," Wilkerson says in this short interview during the 2012 Leimert Park Book Fesitval. "So much of what we think of as American culture is actually the culture of the people who did this (migrated). We're talking about Toni Morrison, who became a Nobel Laureate; we're... Read More →

VIDEO: Will We See A Big-Screen Adaptation of "The Warmth Of Other Suns"?

Interview with Isabel Wilkerson from Mayborn School of Journalism on Vimeo. To say there has been immense interest in Isabel Wilkerson's "Warmth of Other Suns" would be an understatement. She recently gave the ending keynote at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference last month, where she noted that she has been on the road promoting the book extensively since it was first released in September 2010. During the wrap-up interview, Wilkerson was asked if we might see her book on the big screen, similar to "The Help." Check out the video... Read More →

VIDEO: Isabel Wilkerson On The Great Migration

During a stop to the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, Isabel Wilkerson described her desire to capture stories of the Great Migration. It was a labor of love—more than a decade of researching, interviewing, writing, and rewriting to accurately capture the stories of African Americans who left the south for more opportunities and a better life in the North.  As Tavis Smiley says, "Everybody's talking about this now. But only because you had the discipline and courage and conviction and commitment to tell this story – a story that is at the very... Read More →

Huffington Post Reveals 50 Books Every African American Should Read - How Many AW Winners Made The List?

Gwendolyn Brooks Huffington Post's Black Voices rounded up 50 books the editors think every African American should read (they added on Twitter that of course the list has value to everyone, but these books focus primarily on the black experience in America). We were thrilled to see how many Anisfield-Wolf winners were on the list, proving to us once again that our winners stand out in the crowded literary field.  Gwendolyn Brooks "Annie Allen" (1949) Edwidge Danticat "Breath, Eyes, Memory" (1999) Chimamanda Adichie "Half Of A Yellow Sun... Read More →

Would You Like To See Your Relatives As The Subject Of A Book?

Isabel Wilkerson's 2010 masterpiece The Warmth of Other Suns focuses on the Great Migration, scores of Southern African Americans who packed up and left everything they knew behind for a brighter future in the North. With painstaking detail, Wilkerson recounts the lives of four African Americans and their dreams awaiting them in a new place. It was a difficult journey for most, with countless hardships along the way. One of the subjects profiled, Robert Foster, made his way to medical school, becoming a surgeon and later opening his own... Read More →

VIDEO: Middle School Students Perform "Warmth Of Other Suns" Play

There's nothing like seeing young people get excited about history, something that is typically pretty hard to do. "Warmth of Other Suns" author Isabel Wilkerson found this gem and shared it with all her fans, writing:  Delighted that WARMTH is inspiring young people! A middle school in Milwaukee performed a play based on The Warmth of Other Suns, with lots of heart and just enough production values for someone in the audience to get it on YouTube. Just beautiful! Check out Act 2 of the play above and let us know what you think!  Read More →

Friday Lit Review: Things You Might Have Missed While You Were Out

Each Friday we’ll be bringing you news about your favorite authors, literature and books in general. Tell us what you think in the comments:  Sweet Blackberry, founded by actress Karyn Parsons, is an educational foundation and production company whose mission is to use the power of storytelling to educate, empower, and inspire kids from all backgrounds. The organization showcases stories of African Americans, immigrants, women or disabled individuals to highlight their courage and accomplishments. This trailer is a behind-the-scenes look... Read More →

VIDEO: "The Warmth Of Other Suns" Turned Into A...Song?

We find the most fascinating things by following our favorite authors on Facebook and Twitter. 2011 winner Isabel Wilkerson shared this gem with us and we're happy to share it with you. Wilkerson wrote:  So cool. A composer and a violinist are creating a classical work of music based on "The Warmth of Other Suns." Gratified that the story of the Migration is crossing boundaries and inspiring unexpected art forms. Kudos to Leaha Villarreal and Andie Springer for embracing this book in their work! Read More →

Friday Lit Review: Things You Might Have Missed When You Were Busy Living Life

Each Friday we'll be bringing you news about your favorite authors, literature and books in general. Check out the first installment and tell us what you think in the comments:  Isabel Wilkerson (2011 winner) was on PBS Newshour to discuss the groundbreaking of the Smithsonian's African-American History Museum. See her part at the 4:00 minute mark.    Our friends over at Book Riot have declared May 8 "Toni Morrison Day" based off the release date of Ms. Morrison's (1998 winner) newest book, Home. One of their writers will be... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Guide To Black History Month

Black History Month is but one period out of the year where we focus on the accomplishments and contributions of those of the African Diaspora. We believe that the world is a richer place when we celebrate our rich cultural diversity, as evidenced by our dedication to selecting books that contribute to the dialogue. It's hard for us to select our favorite books out of the Anisfield-Wolf library, so instead we will choose books that give great insight into the triumphs and challenges of African Americans. Share this list with your colleagues... Read More →

The Lives They Lived - Isabel Wilkerson Pays Tribute To Those Who Were "The First"

In the New York Times magazine's annual "The Lives They Lived" feature, 2011 Anisfield-Wolf winner Isabel Wilkerson explores the lives of men and women who were named "the first" in her essay, A First Time For Everything: Eugene King was the first African-American milk-delivery man in the Gary, Ind., area. Eddie Koger was the first black bus driver in the state of South Carolina. Camillus Wilson was the first African-American meter reader for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. Nancy Hodge-Snyder was said to have “had the... Read More →

VIDEO: 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Winner Isabel Wilkerson On Writing: "Plunge Yourself Into It"

In this brief interview from Knopf's "Writers on Writing" series, 2011 Anisfield-Wolf winner Isabel Wilkerson discusses the lengthy, grueling process of writing her award-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns. She says, "I am so glad that I didn't know it would take 15 years. Had I know it would take 15 years, I don't think I would have embarked upon it." See Knopf's full series of informational interviews with some of today's best writers here. Read More →

Ronn Richard 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards Remarks

(Left to Right) David Eltis and David Richardson, authors of “Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade” Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns” Nicole Krauss, author of “Great House” Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of “The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia” John Edgar Wideman, winner of Lifetime Achievement Award Essence Cain, poet “In the Flower Market” (front) Good evening. I’m Ronn Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the 76th annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to see a full house for our opening night here in Playhouse Square.We will always think back upon our years at the Cleveland Play House with nostalgia. But the change in venue didn’t slow demand for almost 1,000 tickets, most of which were snapped up the first week. That’s a testament to the respect this prize commands – and... Read More →

76th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize Winners Announced

CLEVELAND, Ohio (April 12, 2011) – The Cleveland Foundation today announced the winners of the 76th Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards www.Anisfield-Wolf.org They are: Nicole Krauss, Great House, Fiction Mary Helen Stefaniak, The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia, Fiction David Eltis/David Richardson, Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Nonfiction Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns, Nonfiction John Edgar Wideman, Lifetime Achievement “The 2011 Anisfield-Wolf winners are notable for the unique way each author addresses the... Read More →
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