The other day, after a particularly frustrating day at work, I came home to find these in my mailbox:
The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson
Epic is right! As you can tell by the past posts of my blog, I’m not a huge reader of books about history. I’m not sure why, but I’d much rather get lost in a work of fiction, or in someone’s personal story than to read a book about historical events. However, I’ve been fortunate that when I do go out on a limb and climb out of my reading comfort zone, I’m always pleasantly surprised.
I received an advanced copy of this book back in early summer, but because it was so thick, I decided not to read it just then but save it for the cooler months. When it was finally published, the reviews were so incredible that I went ahead and picked it up. If you know anything about American history and slavery in this country then you are already familiar with the migration that African-Amercians made as they left the confines of their lives in the South for hopefully brighter pastures in the North. What you probably don’t know is this movement started in the right after slavery ended and well into the 1970’s.
Wilkerson centers her book on the stories of three individuals of varying degrees of education and economic status, who hailed from three different states and migrated to three different areas of the country in three different time periods, for three different reasons. So while you are learning about an important part of American history, you are really reading the biographies of three people, making the story relatable and interesting.
I’m definitely glad I picked this up and I learned so much while reading. On a side note, I was at work a couple weeks ago in the office talking with a co-worker. Then over the radio a cashier asks if we have any more copies of The Warmth of Other Suns in the store because the author was here to sign them. I hopped out of my chair in mid-sentence and ran out to the sales floor. Luckily, I was in the middle of reading it and had my copy with me so Ms. Wilkerson could sign. Doret & I were so excited to meet her (authors are like rockstars to us)! We also had good news for her because Debbie Allen had been in earlier in the week and bought 30 copies of the book and was trying to get in touch with her.
I am a pedestrian. I never learned how to drive. The year I was supposed to take Driver’s Education in school was the year that the D.C. Public School system didn’t have money in the budget for it. Right after that, while I was away at college, my mother’s car was stolen and she never replaced it. So there was nothing for me to drive when I came home. Anyway, year after year went by, and I just never learned. Not a big deal.
But I live in Atlanta. And this city isn’t kind to pedestrians. The sidewalks in some areas are in horrible state and in a lot of residential areas, there are no sidewalks at all! Yes, in the city limits. No sidewalks. Drivers don’t care about this. They look at us like we are crazy for walking in the street! Sometimes they give you dirty looks as they walk by. Or they will drive close to the side and try to force you to hop on the curb. For those people I carry my grocery bag in the hand facing the street ready to slam it into the side of their cars! (I am not getting on the muddy curb in my suede Pumas!)
Every day when I leave work I walk the same route to the Marta train station. I use a back street in the affluent Buckhead station that runs between a hotel currently under renovation and an empty lot full of trees. (They were supposed to be torn down for condos and are all marked with a hideous “X”. The recession has stopped that development, thank God, and the trees remain.)
In the 8 or 9 years or so that I have walked this route, hundreds of cars and trucks have passed me by. Sometimes a brother will blow his horn in (I guess) appreciation. (Which is nice, but if you really want to appreciate me, give me a ride.) They pass me when I am struggling with my groceries, or my umbrella when I get caught in a storm so strong that I am soaked through by the time I get to the station. They pass me when it is freezing and the road (which is all downhill) is a sheet of ice and I am trying not to bust my ass. They pass me when it is so hot that I am taking baby steps hoping that I don’t pass out from dehydration. A couple of times people I know have driven by and waved and kept on going.
But today as I am walking along listening to my i-Pod and checking my e-mail on my cell phone, I noticed a late model Mercedes Benz slow down beside me. It stops a few feet in front of me and I see an older Caucasian woman, a scion of an old moneyed Buckhead family, no doubt, roll down her window. I take my earphones out and prepare to give her directions where ever she needs to go (what else could she want?).
And then I hear her say: “Do you need a ride? I’m going straight down to the Marta station.”
I was so taken aback that I just said, “No, thank you, this is how I get my exercise”. (Which is true.)
Maybe she is a customer of the bookstore and recognizes me from there. Maybe she was entranced by my bright yellow shirt and purse and wanted to share in the sunshine. Maybe she wanted to kidnap me and put me to work in her mansion.
I don’t know, but it was the nicest part of my day. (That’s me in the picture.)
This commercial always makes me smile!!