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The Warmth of Other Suns by Wilkerson

  • May 18, 2014 · 5:00 PM

Lets taste some australia wine then discuss the book. Donations of bottles of wine are being accepted up to 4 bottles. I will be bringing an australian Shiraz. Please post in the comments below if you plan on donating a bottle for the tasting.

Lets discuss the Warmth of Other Suns by Wilkerson. As always, bring a dish to share.

Discussion Questions

1. The Warmth of Other Suns combines a sweeping historical perspective with vivid intimate portraits of three individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster. What is the value of this dual focus, of shifting between the panoramic and the close-up? In what ways are Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster representative of the millions of other migrants who journeyed from South to North?

2. In many ways The Warmth of Other Suns seeks to tell a new story—about the Great Migration of southern blacks to the north—and to set the record straight about the true significance of that migration. What are the most surprising revelations in the book? What misconceptions does Wilkerson dispel?

3. What were the major economic, social, and historical forces that sparked the Great Migration? Why did blacks leave in such great numbers from 1915 to 1970?

4. What were the most horrifying conditions of Jim Crow South? What instances of racial terrorism stand out most strongly in the book? What daily injustices and humiliations did blacks have to face there?

5. In what ways was the Great Migration of southern blacks similar to other historical migrations? In what important ways was it unique?

6. After being viciously attacked by a mob in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today” (p. 389). Why were northern working-class whites so hostile to black migrants?

7. Wilkerson quotes Black Boy in which Richard Wright wrote, on arriving in the North: “I had fled one insecurity and embraced another” (p. 242). What unique challenges did black migrants face in the North? How did these challenges affect the lives of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster?

8. Wilkerson points out that the three most influential figures in jazz were all children of the Great Migration: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. What would American culture look like today if the Great Migration hadn’t happened?

9. What motivated Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster to leave the South? What circumstances and inner drives prompted them to undertake such a difficult and dangerous journey? What would likely have been their fates if they had remained in the South? In what ways did living in the North free them?

10. Near the end of the book, Wilkerson asks: “With all that grew out of the mass movement of people, did the Great Migration achieve the aim of those who willed it? Were the people who left the South—and their families—better off for having done so? Was the loss of what they left behind worth what confronted them in the anonymous cities they fled to?” (p. 528). How does Wilkerson answer these questions?

11. How did the Great Migration change not only the North but also the South? How did the South respond to the mass exodus of cheap black labor?

12. In what ways are current attitudes toward Mexican Americans similar to attitudes toward African Americans expressed by Northerners in The Warmth of Other Suns? For example, the ways working-class Northerners felt that Southern blacks were stealing their jobs.

13. At a neighborhood watch meeting in Chicago’s South Shore, Ida Mae listens to a young state senator named Barack Obama. In what ways is Obama’s presidency a indirect result of the Great Migration?

14. What is the value of Wilkerson basing her research primarily on firsthand, eyewitness accounts, gathered through extensive interviews, of this historical period?

15. Wilkerson writes of her three subjects that “Ida Mae Gladney had the humblest trappings but was perhaps the richest of them all. She had lived the hardest life, been given the least education, seen the worst the South could hurl at her people, and did not let it break her.... Her success was spiritual, perhaps the hardest of all to achieve. And because of that, she was the happiest and lived the longest of them all” (p. 532). What attributes allowed Ida Mae Gladney to achieve this happiness and longevity? In what sense might her life, and the lives of George Starling and Robert Foster as well, serve as models for how to persevere and overcome tremendous difficulties?

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  • Kim N.

    Our first event with many no shows. Thus we waited longer to start our book discussion and did not get as far as we wanted. Our wonderful organizer prepared many more dishes than she would have if folks who RSVP'd said what they would bring (and brought it).
    Members, please be considerate and keep your RSVP up to date.
    I have to say the pre-discussion event of Australian wine tasting was fun! Anita had great trivia questions about wine and Australia wine in particular. We learned a lot!

    May 19, 2014

  • Natalie

    I'll bring angel food cake and strawberries and an Australian white wine

    1 · May 17, 2014

  • anita j.

    Hello everyone, If you know what dish you are bringing 2morrow, please post the dish in the comment section. Also, if you are donating a bottle of wine for the tasting post that in the comment section. I am bringing a shiraz and Pinot Noir. FYI..Right now the Montgomery County Liquor store is having a sale on some australian wines. Fish Eye is going for $5 a bottle. I'm looking forward to the tasting and discussion tomorrow.


    May 17, 2014

  • Kim N.

    The wine I am contributing to the tasting is an Australian Shiraz Cabernet.

    May 17, 2014

  • anita j.

    I will be bringing potato salad and collard greens.

    May 17, 2014

  • Kim N.

    I am in for 1 bottle. Let you know what closer to the date. And how about a food theme of Southern Specialties such as: Alabama's white barbeque sauce on chicken. Louisiana dirty rice. Bibb Salad with Georgia pecans, blue cheese and warm bacon-brown sugar vinaigrette. And Mississippi mud pie for dessert. I'll make the chicken w/barbeque sauce.

    May 1, 2014

    • anita j.

      I can bring some collard greens.

      May 1, 2014

    • anita j.

      Or something vegetarian.

      May 1, 2014

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