“I was leaving the South 
to fling myself into the unknown . . .
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom” 
― Richard Wright

Isabel Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and a daughter of the Great Migration, writes with conviction and passion. To tell us about the relocation of southern, mostly rural black people to cities in the North and West, that re-shaped America in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, she focuses on three individuals, two men and a woman. Each of them came from a different state and social class, but they were united in the conviction that life under Jim Crow was untenable. Hailed as the definitive history of the epoch, it is a monumental undertaking with mixed results. 

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
To her credit, she chooses evocative poetry to highlight each chapter and argues persuasively to dispel some of the myths surrounding the impact of migrating blacks on urban neighborhoods. But by relying on personal narratives to shape her story, she often loses track of her source material and repeats herself. While her protagonists are all worthy individuals with compelling personal histories, revealing their lives is no substitute for a deeper analysis of the social, political and economic forces which contributed to urban decline in the 1960's. It also diminishes some of the drama of the Civil Rights Movement which played out in real time on televisions around the world. I was disappointed that there were no photographs, an odd omission in this sort of social history. 

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Reading it made me feel virtuous, maybe even smug, as if I'd spent a whole day eating only healthy food, but by the end I was left craving something richer and more substantial. 

A link to some wonderful photographs that Ms Wilkerson might have chosen: