I loved this book!
How’s that for an unbiased review? As soon as I finished it, I sent TIH a message letting her know how much I loved it and thanking her for suggesting it.
I will say that it was quite lengthy, but it was a quick read for me – I started on a Thursday and was done that Sunday. I could’ve done without some of the demographics and data that were presented, but I realize that this book was a scholarly undertaking, and certainly don’t knock the tone it occasionally adopted.
While I was reading this book I, of course, thought of my own family and their migration experiences. My Mom followed her older sister and moved from Arkansas to California. Most of their cousins followed suit – those that didn’t end up in California headed to places like Chicago and Milwaukee. My Dad was born in raised in Cali, but his parents migrated from Texas. I’m almost certain that most of you could tell similar tales about your family’s origins.
I was surprised that the people featured were not as happy in their overall lives as I expected them to be once they left the harsh South behind. But I guess the old saying holds true “wherever you go, there you are.”
I bookmarked a few things that I found remarkable – did any of these strike you as well?
“Still it made no sense to Pershing that one set of people could be in a cage, and the people outside couldn’t see the bars.” This was when the store owner in Monroe was questioning why Pershing didn’t just stay in Monroe and practice surgery at the hospital in town – the man never realized that doctors of color were not allowed to practice there. I think this particular quote speaks volumes about issues of injustice everywhere.
“In South Carolina, colored people had to apply for a permit to do any work other than agriculture after Reconstruction. It would not likely have been their choice had there been an alternative.” Who knew? I will never understand how some people claim racism is not an institution in this country.
Do you remember the passage about Arrington High from Mississippi – the man that was declared insane for speaking out against segregation and ended up in an sylum (Whitfield, which still operates as the State’s psychiatric hospital)? Mr. High is the one who was snuck out of the asylum, placed in a casket and shipped as a dead body from Mississippi to Chicago.
I almost cried when I read the following passage about George Starling, “”…by an accident of birth, he had managed to suffer the terror and injustice of Jim Crow but just missed the revolution that opened up the best in education and unheard of career opportunities for black peopl with the passage of the civil rights laws of the 1960s. The revolution had come too late for him.”
I guess I’ll stop here and open up the “room” for discussion. What did you think of the book? Were there any stories that particularly stuck you? Do you plan on asking any of your relatives about their journeys East, West, or North? (I certainly plan on asking my Grandma how she, my great aunts, and my Grandpa ended up in CA).