By Marissa Johnson
The book “The Warmth of Other Suns” is raved about by the New York Times, USA Today, the New Yorker, the Boston Globe and by countless other publications. The book is about the lives of just 3 of the 6 million people who fled the South during the Great Migration.
The three people’s stories that are chronicled in the book include the stories of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Sterling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster.
On July 11, 1951, a couple and their two children attempted to migrate from the South side of their city in Illinois to Cicero, where the housing was more affordable and more plentiful. The family of four had resided in a two room tenement house with another family of five. Their crowded living conditions were common although beyond cramped.
When the family attempted to move to Cicero, the sheriff of the town refused to let them move in. The couple obtained a court order and started moving in on July 11th.
They didn’t even get to stay one night.
The town, comprised mostly of Eastern European immigrants, formed an angry mob that turned into one of the biggest riots in history. They threw stones at the family, fire bombed them, stripped the place of appliances and furniture, and set fire to the family’s belongings.
When firefighters arrived to fight the blaze, the mob turned on them, attacking the emergency responders with rocks to prevent them from saving the building.
By burning the building, the rioters forced out white families as well. The Illinois governor had to call the national guard. 118 men were arrested but not a single one was indicted for his role in the riot. This event brought the race problem in America to the world’s consciousness.
The Warmth of Other Suns chronicles the Great Migration by looking at the more human side of the Migration rather than focusing on statistics and cold data. Though the Great Migration brought with it some great cultural advances like jazz, Motown, hip hop, and r & b, it demonstrated extreme racial tensions.