From 1915–1970, nearly 6 million African-Americans left the South in what is arguably the largest U.S. migration of the 20th century. One of the most compelling nonfiction books of this young century, The Warmth of Other Suns was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, whose parents were among those who fled their hometowns in an attempt to escape the cruelty of the segregated South. Cinematic in its description and exhaustive in its documentation, the book chronicles the exodus through three main characters: a doctor, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster of Monroe, La.; an fruit picker-turned porter, George Swanson Starling of Eustis, Fla.; and a young mother, Ida Mae Brandon Gladney of Chickasaw County, Miss.
Upon arriving at their new homes in the North and on the West Coast, they discover a society in which the lunch counters are no longer segregated, but the discrimination nonetheless has taken on a coded and, in some cases, equally destructive form. The characters' individual choices shaped their destinies, but the collective act of African-Americans to abandon their homes galvanized the civil rights movement and indelibly changed the social, cultural and economic fabric of America. Wilkerson will discuss her book at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Global Education Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. The event is free, register at tinyurl.com/wilkerson-at-unc. —Lisa Sorg