NACCHO Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns

by Emily Yox, MPH

Each month, NACCHO brings you a new public health book, read and reviewed by NACCHO staff. Book reviews in this series originally appeared on NACCHO Voice: The Word on Local health Departments and are republished here with permission.

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The Warmth of Other Suns shares incredible stories of Black Americans who left the south during the Great Migration and came up north, where they envisioned a life without the constraints of Jim Crow. While almost six million people migrated north from 1915 to 1970, the author Isabel Wilkerson, herself the child of someone who made the journey from the south to Washington, DC, weaves in many stories, while focusing the narrative on three people in particular. These narratives show that while the north was seen as a promise land of freedom and opportunity, that was not necessarily the case for many who left everything behind.

Through captivating story-telling, Wilkerson shares clear examples of the roots of institutional racism; how the north and west were not all they seemed to be to those dreaming in the south, and how policies that were meant to exclude and disenfranchise Black Americans played out on a personal level. The effects of these policies of institutional racism are still felt today and play a role in education, job opportunities, and health.

I admittedly knew very little about the Great Migration until reading this book and it put concepts of institutional racism into much clearer focus for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Want to discuss this book and others? Head over to NACCHO’s Virtual Communities page and connect with peers.

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Emily Yox

Emily Yox is the Program Analyst for Global Health at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) in Washington, DC. In her role, she encourages US local health departments to understand the valuable perspective that global health programs can provide to domestic public health work. Emily completed her MPH in Global Health Epidemiology and Disease Control at the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health. She also holds a BA in International Studies from American University, School of International Service.