It has been 10 years since Isabel Wilkerson’s award-winning “The Warmth of Other Suns” told the epic story of the Great Migration, the decades in the 20th century during which six million black Southerners relocated from the rural South to the North, Midwest and West.
Chicago, of course, was one of the great beneficiaries of that exodus.
In the book, Ms. Wilkerson, a former Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winner, accompanied Ida Mae Gladney, back to a field in Mississippi where Ms. Gladney used to pick cotton. They also visited a cemetery, where she was asked by a relative: “Ida Mae, you gonna be buried down here?”
She answered: “No, I’m gonna be in Chicago.”
But today, many black Chicagoans are leaving the city. Since 2015, almost 50,000 black residents have left; 200,000 have moved out in the last two decades.
Julie Bosman, a correspondent in our Chicago bureau, and the photographer Todd Heisler documented a reverse migration, which was published in The Times this week. They profiled three generations of the White family to show what goes into the decision to leave or to stay.
They found that some families took only small steps away from the city, resettling in nearby suburbs in Illinois or Indiana that offer more highly rated schools and a lower cost of living. But plenty of others have made homes in places like Atlanta, many decades after black families came to Chicago and other Northern cities in search of opportunity.
“It’s an American tragedy,” the Rev. Marshall Hatch, a pastor on the West Side, told her. His congregants have been disappearing for years, heading to cities throughout the Midwest and the South.
“Look at the legacy that the African-American community had in national politics, in culture, with blues and gospel and jazz, and sports, from Michael Jordan to Ernie Banks,” he said. “African-American Chicago is being destroyed.”
Apologizing to Japanese-Americans for Internment
“We need to remind them that this can’t happen again,” said 96-year-old Kiyo Sato, as he watched California’s legislators on Thursday unanimously pass a resolution, 72-0, apologizing for discriminating against Japanese-Americans and for the state’s role in moving 120,000 of them into internment camps nearly 80 years ago.
The resolution said the Legislature “apologizes to all Americans of Japanese ancestry for its past actions in support of the unjust inclusion, removal, and incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and for its failure to support and defend the civil rights and civil liberties of Japanese-Americans during this period.”
Mas Okui was once such victim. He was 10 years old when his family was sent to Manzanar, in the remote desert east of the Sierra Nevada 200 miles north of Los Angeles. Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, he returned home after his release and taught high school history and social studies for decades. He now educates visitors to Manzanar.
In our interactive story, Mr. Okui leads a tour of Manzanar [Visit]
The 1619 Project
Slavery and the American Revolution: A Historical Dialogue
Was the American Revolution a fight to secure freedom for all or a fight to preserve bondage for some? Did the patriots struggle for liberty or property? How should contemporary Americans regard the causes, character and legacy of the war that led to the nation’s founding?
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