A compelling and necessary read, this narrative- enhanced documentation of The Great Migration that, between 1915 to 1970, saw almost six million Black citizens leave the South in search of greater freedom.
The book came out twelve years ago, (at a time I was reading almost nothing new due to writing deadlines) and was a huge best seller and award winner--all well deserved. I'm embarrassed to just now be reading it.
The terrible slavery-like peonage of Black sharecroppers, the routine humiliations of Black folk, the inadequate educational opportunities, and the ever-present threat of lynching are shown through the day-to-day experiences of three who left, and the reality of Jim Crow comes to heart-breaking life.
As one who lived through segregation, I found this book forced me to confront my own blindness to and acceptance of the injustice all around me at the time. I was young--by the time I went to college and the Civil Rights Movement was well underway, I began to realize the terrible truth. But not to the extent that this book has revealed it.
Lived experiences, carefully told with an incredible attention to the details of everyday life, explain so much about the injustice still plaguing our country, even as the Republican party plots and plans to effectively disenfranchise many Black voters.
A necessary book.
James Baldwin, writing during the Migration, put it well: "I can conceive of no Negro native to this country who has not, by the age pf puberty, been irreparably scarred by the condition of his life...
The wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive."