October 17, 2014

Author Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson

Marcia Franklin interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson devoted 15 years to researching and writing The Warmth of Other Suns, a book about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to other parts of the country. The book was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, and won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, as well as many other awards.

In 1994, while Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times, Wilkerson became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, winning the feature writing award for her coverage of the 1993 Midwestern floods and her profile of a 10-year-old boy who was responsible for his four siblings.

While reporting throughout the Midwest, Wilkerson became intrigued by the number of people she met who had migrated from the South. She decided to write a book about what has come to be known as the Great Migration, when an estimated six million African-Americans left the South. After talking with at least 1,200 people, Wilkerson narrowed her characters down to three people, whose lives she chronicled from birth to death in the context of their migration.

Franklin talks with Wilkerson about the reasons for the Great Migration, its effect on the country, how she researched the book, and how its success has affected her own life.

Franklin interviewed Wilkerson in April, 2014, when she was the keynote speaker for the annual Idaho Humanities Council Distinguished Humanities Lecture in Idaho Falls.