By Ronica Hutchison–
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-seller author Isabel Wilkerson spoke at U of L on March 2 about African-Americans’ migration from 1900s South in a free event.
The event titled “The Warmth of Other Suns” is based on her best-selling book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” The book is based on the interviews conducted by Wilkerson, who interviewed more than 1,200 people during 15 years to tell the stories of the 1915-1970 migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West.
“My book has direct connections to Kentucky and it is an honor to be here,” Wilkerson said in the opening of her talk.
During her talk, Wilkerson touched on her reasons for writing the book. “It took me 15 years to write the book. I wanted to find new information that wasn’t already taught in school systems. I wanted to be able to make that era come alive so anyone who reads the book can understand the worlds, hearts and minds of those enduring these times.”
Wilkerson said her book is relevant to modern discussions of race in America.
“It is about how far we have come and how far we have left to go,” Wilkerson said. “People read my book like history, but we see these stories begin to repeat themselves, on the news or in the media. I feel as if we are condemning our children to explain to their grandchildren: what was going on in 2014? Why were we killing people in the streets? And I must ask, what will our answers be? We have yet to figure out our answers.
“We often do not see the humanity of people who may look different from us but want the exactly same things as us. We still fail at times to see this today.”
Wilkerson is the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in American journalism and the first black American to win for individual reporting. The National Association of Black Journalists named her Journalist of the Year in 1994.
“It is not just about black history; it is about American history,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson’s book has won many awards including the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. It was also named one of the year’s best books by The New York Times Book Review, Amazon, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly and more than a dozen other publications. Her book is the selection for “One Book Louisville,” a community reading program started by the Louisville Urban League and supported by the Louisville Free Public Library.
Wilkerson’s talk was sponsored by U of L’s Pan-African Studies department, Louisville Urban League and the Center on Race and Inequality.