Renowned journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson visited the J School to mark the 20th Anniversary of the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards. She spoke with Dean Steve Coll and students about her 2011 Mark Lynton History Prize-winning The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. But that’s not what she called it to her sources.
“If I had said Great Migration, I was not going to get anywhere. Because they had always been lumped together into this one group, this marginalized lower caste in the South, they did not want to be viewed as a mass group of anything. They wanted to be recognized for the agency that they had used in escaping a situation that was untenable.”
Wilkerson spoke of her 15 years-long meticulous, immersive research and writing that took her to the far flung reaches of America and its culture. “Some of the most incredible stories were told as I was just driving with Ida Mae through the back roads of Mississippi to get to her former sister-in-law's double wide trailer in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. And so this was not simply, Q&A with somebody over the course of an afternoon. This was a deep investment of time, energy and emotion into the lives of the people. “
Listen to Isabel Wilkerson as she discusses the ongoing relevance of the her award winning work, The Warmth of Other Suns. “A lot of people look at this book as a work of history until they turn on the news, and then they can see the parallels unfolding before our very eyes.”
Our thanks to the Lynton family, which has generously underwritten the Lukas Prizes since their inception in 1998.