>> thank you. >> will you be in washington for a few days? [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> arianna huffen ton -- huffington is the cofounder and editor of huffington post. for more information, visit huffingtonpost.com. a discussion with michele norris and author of the warmth of other suns, the epic story of america's great migration.
a to explore the things left unsaid by her family when she was growing up. michelle was chosen as your list of the year and she does not by national association of black journalists as a co-owner of a dupont columbia award for the york project, raised in the two 2008 though. she is the host of national public radio's, all things considered and has appeared on "meet the press," charlie rose and the chris mathews show. as written for other commercials come the "chicago tribune" "the los angeles times." the ones about her son, the epic story of great migration is pulitzer prize-winning author, isabel wilkerson 31st of. the migration of african-americans to the north and west of 1950s 1972 the stories of three people and their families. drawing on archival materials and conducting within 1200 interviews, the want of other sons traces the lives that i do
gladly, georgetown and robert foster from their difficult beginnings in the south the decision to leave her hopes of a better life in chicago, harlem and los angeles. the stories paralleled the experiences of immigrants who came to america and chronicled a major shift in american life and all part of the country. wilkerson was a pulitzer prize for feature writing for her book -- for her work in chicago bureau chief and "the new york times" in 1894, making her the first black woman in the history of american journalism to win a pulitzer prize in the first african-american to win for individual recording. she's currently professor of journalism and director of nonfiction at boston university. and i'm going to start by asking some questions. the first question i wanted to ask was how each of you came to work on your projects, how you discovered your topics. >> i probably have been working on this book for as long as i've been alive because i grew up as the daughter of people who are part of the great migration as
his ms. michele. in the majority of african-americans you might meet in the north would best advice. i grew up around people would migrate from georgia, carolinas, washington d.c., grew up with music, language, the folkways, the food. and nobody ever talked about it as being a great migration. note that i'm someone who came up in the great migration and yet it was everywhere. and i later, as a journalist, and interviewing people all over the country, became more aware of how huge it was because wherever you went, whether you're in los angeles or in chicago or detroit, they're always references to the south, everywhere you went. and it all became together for me and i wondered why was there no grapes of wrath for this huge migration, which had gone on for most of the 20th century and that's what i set out to do. not being a novelist, i wrote it
as nonfiction so it took 15 years of interviewing. 1200 people. it took 15 years. if this book were a human being, it would be in high school and dating. [laughter] that's how long it took. and i had the chance to meet part of that 1200, three amazing protagonists, whose story tell the three major themes of this migration. i'm part of the east coast strain and michele as you learn in her beautiful book is part of the central dream from alabama, mississippi, tennessee, out to the midwest. and that's the reason why i decided to do it. >> i -- if you look at the cover of my book a miss as two words. a memoir. and that is surprising to me if anything in this process as it's an accidental memoir.
it's not the book that i set out to write. i actually intended to write a book that looked at how americans talk and think about race in the wake of the election of barack obama. i want to read a book of essays that would principally be about other people, you know, how other people talk and how other people think. and i try to listen to in conversation in this country, based on work i'd done a national public radio and a series of conversations i did in new york and california. much of the frequencies to pick up in conversation and lots of different places all across the country, i started to pick up static on the dial in my own family. and i started to hear things in my family that i've never heard before. what i think happened is older people in the wake of the election of barack obama sort of exhaled.
they saw something that they never thought they'd see in their lifetime. in outcome you talk about the warmth of others. for my parents and their grandparents to do that a man of color would've such the white house, would be like reaching up in trying to touch the sun. and when that happens, they tried to exhale and the stories come out. and i realize the people i thought i knew so well had locked away certain parts of their history, purposefully, to make sure that they could move forward to protect themselves. i realized it was mainly to protect me, to protect my sisters, to protect my cousins. they stopped talking about very painful things, indignities, mistreatment and i saw this case, violence. because they want our passport to be clear. >> why did your families leave the south for the north? >> very good question. that was one of the reasons i
set out to do the book because my parents never talked about it, as with michele. this generation was, in some ways, and misunderstood segment of the greatest generation. they bore up under incredible odds. they were in many ways lot in a caste system and i described the great migration in the 18 sanction from a caste system, which was untenable and could not last and ultimately ended violently through the civil rights movement. but ultimately, these people were -- needed to be -- i felt that their story stated to be heard and told. and they were not talking. one reason might have been told as they were not talking. there were not talking for many reasons. one is it was just too painful. another is when they last come out of africa than not look back. some people change their name. one of the characters in the book know like large breed dog or the name he was brought up
with. some people melted into the new world, did not look back. and they turn the page and whatever it happened before had not happened. and their children raised in a whole new environment without knowledge of what had gone before then or have even got there. one of the main questions i want to know is how to take a tear? i was at the majority of african-americans in north, midwest, north and northwest can trace some very specific part of the south. it's no accident that michele's father was from alabama and ended up in the midwest. there is a direct treachery. i find it so inspiring that this is not a haphazard unfurling apostles. these people are making a decision. decision of their lives to be the only place they've ever known for a place they've never seen, not knowing what the future held. and if any african-americans comprise the case for many americans wouldn't even exist because i wouldn't have existed
in michele would have been very different. i mean, my parents, to get to your question, you get us started. my mother migrated from rome, georgia to washington d.c. my father migrated in a different decade from southern virginia to washington d.c. they were from families where the people have had their parents had some education. they themselves have education, but they could not use it in a caste system in which they were growing up. and they decided to go to a place where they thought they could. they happen to meet there. they got married. had there been a great migration it wouldn't even be here. i don't know who i would be sitting here, but it wouldn't be me. in the same goes for you as well. they were seeking. the idea of a kind of political asylum that the people were seeking is the kind of thing -- a different way of looking at what happened with a migration that occurred within the borders of our country.
within the borders of her own country, there's an immigrant experience that was not unlike that of people coming across the atlantic. and that's my goal to show how much we have in common, how we have so much more in common than we've been led to believe. these people bore up under incredible is just to make the decision to leave. and my goal was to try to understand why would they up against and how did they make the decision to leave and that the reader would be able to put him or herself in the mindset of these individuals and be able to say to themselves, what would i have done if i were living in a caste system in which you were -- was against the law for a black person in a white person to simply play checkers together. that is astounding that someone actually sat back down and to love. and the courthouses across the country, there was actually a black bible and a white bible to swear to tell the truth on. that is astounding. this is not that long ago. how much was lost on both sides?
how many black people, how many white people were deprived of the opportunities to get to know people they might have so much in common with. so many wonderful experiences were deprived of all races because of the caste system were under. so that was the reason they last. >> and my family's case, i learned through the reporting of this book, exactly why my father and his brothers had that. i had a different experience that they did not pack in terms of telling similar stories, they remain tethered to birmingham. i went back to birmingham every summer. so in that sense they may have been slowly writing this book and collecting stories. and my father did me an enormous favor by making sure that i knew his birmingham. i do know is the place where he was also shot by a white police officer, but i spent a lot of time in birmingham and that's it makes his journey forward so surprising to me in so many ways. i knew that they move to chicago ultimately. they all settled in chicago.
he has five brothers. they were all incredibly handsome man, which will see if you read the actual books, there's pictures inside. i knew they move to chicago looking for better word. you will see how handsomely on these pictures because they used to take pictures of a common experience that even though they were in blue-collar jobs, my father and his brothers were with the postal workers are teachers. they would go to the portrait studio address of them looked like the mickelson brothers or john kerry more and send us pictures back home and they would essentially savor doing alright appear. may serve as magnets because people with you the pictures and say they're doing okay, i went to get up north. >> little did they know. >> right. here's what i did here, it was good work, but hard work and honorable work. my father was very proud to do that work. what i didn't know though is they were not just running to something. they were very much running from
something. and my father's case, running for his life. he had stood up to a police officer when he returned for more in 1846. and he was part of a cohort of black veterans who returned to this country has changed men. they have worn a military uniform. that participate in the site for democracy. but when they came back the wonder piece of that. this is before the marches in the city. this is a simple set of demands they wanted. they wanted the job, one address back and they wanted to vote. and they were unable to do so. they were met with a white wall of resistance. my father come this mild-mannered postal worker said that to a police officer. remember this 1946, birmingham alabama. her black man to stand up to a white police officer was to invite a special kind of trouble. and he wound up being wounded when police officers guns discharged and raise the side of the legs. he had to get out of birmingham very quickly out of five.
and the rest of the brothers had to get out of birmingham. they couldn't say. kerry and the north's name at that point became a bit of a risk. there were consequences though that they didn't understand the north and a list of the writing of this book. a great opportunities. add jobs. they could use the g.i. bill and the north that they could not in the south. when the six-month move north, even though they came back and visit from time to time, date back to hank aaron to continue to age, whose homes continue to age, whose house continued to deteriorate. but i realize that the letters i discovered in the interviews i did, that my grandparents who gave birth to the six strong handsome strapping sons were left alone in the later part of their life because their sons had moved north until late they could no longer go back. so the more you understand this migration, you see the benefits and are also great cost.
>> michele, your mother is a fourth-generation minnesotan. how did her experience and her father's experience, how did they meet? and what did she teach you about life in the north, which her experience would've been different since she was born and raised in minnesota? >> her family was the only black family in a small town in the central -- nor essential part called alexandria. she and my father met when her brother worked at the post office. her father and jimmy became friends friends and she went home with jimmy and that my mother and that was it. and let's minnesota and let the taller community there. and i grew up in an integrated community and thought i'd -- is the way life was in minnesota, that there was a sort of level of tolerance that i didn't see her experience in birmingham. what i realized when the story started to spill out from my family, was that this sort of
easy integration that it took for granted was not always present in even their community. my family were blocked estrace. so when my father left chicago move north, that meant they were the first black family to purchase a home in the south side of minneapolis on their particular blog. and the people that i nailed, parents of my friends are very chilling tonight family when i moved in. most got up and left when we moved into the neighborhood. and i only learned this from my mother later on because again she was protecting me. the story fisher of people and talking about this that really so strong they were, but also how cunning and how they sometimes used humor to help them get by in a situation that could have crushed them. and now, when everybody moved out and they were trying to sell the houses next to the black family, my mother just decided well, i can sit by and i can't cry or it can have a little fun with this. and what they would do -- when
prospective buyers would come to look at the house directly next door to ours, she was at my sister's out in the yard to play, so it was very clear that they were going to be moving next to a black family. and if that didn't work, should walk beside herself and she was very pregnant with me. and when she tells the story, she talks about how they go inside the house and she waited a moment consider itself, showtime. [laughter] >> so your father was very much into keeping the yard nice and and so there was a part of him who is about appearance. one of the things that struck me about both of her books of the talk a lot about appearance. you talk about when he went on vacation and your father wanted to make sure -- i can't remember how you said it, but you are better than the coca-cola image of the american family.
and it's about time you talk a lot about how appearance is very important. talk about that some for african-americans of a generation. >> i think working on the book helped me to dress better. [laughter] >> i've known isabel a really long time and she is always dressed well. >> because of the explications, which is one of the things that has so much to say about the assumptions made about this generation of people. the assumption was they went and did not work hard and the post office. good reliable honorable work and my parents doing the same thing. my mother had been a teacher. he bent and merriment. his group, this migration, generations of people have been espoused and understood along with one of the things i wanted
to come across. but appearances are crucial. and one of them in the story of a man named dr. roberts foster in my book. the story of a surgeon who had been a surgeon in the army. he got out of the army and determined or found out that he could not practice surgery and his own town of monroe, louisiana. not too terribly far from here. and he decided that he was going to set out on a course that ended at the more perilous than he had anticipated. and of course the of course several louisiana through the country of texas, which is a large country unto itself and onto the western states to get to california, which was his vision of the american dream. but it was more perilous than he thought. and it turned out that he could not come after getting past access, and even pass the eastern section of new mexico, he could not find a place that
would rent to novotel room. that meant he had to drive for three of the huge western states, through the mountains, through the desert, at night, by himself and he wasn't a good driver. his friends and wasn't a miracle he made it through the desert, but it all because he was a terrible driver. he had to go alone any other third point. but to get to the idea of how we present ourselves or have a generation felt that is so important as before he could go when to try and get a room, he was very aware of what he was up against, even if he thought he was in the free land of the west. and so, he made a big effort to comb his hair, to make sure he was wearing a tie and brought out his sport coat and made sure that he was not wrinkled for the ride. he went to the great deal of effort before going in to ask for rooms. and this was well past the borders of what was considered to be jim crow at that time.
and he recounted the story to me. he said this thing about over 3000 times as to what i've done? and there was nothing he could have done. i try to re-create that journey with my own parents. and i couldn't make it as far as the head. at a certain point, we were driving through the desert. it was night. we were going to hairpin turn and the mountains in arizona. we had -- i was trying to follow into the letter. and even now, those stretches of land are very spread out. you can go for many dozens of miles without a single settlement. you have no light except her headlights. i wanted to, but they nonfiction to be able to create for the reader, what does it feel like to have your fingers swell from having gripped the wheel for so long? would've if you like to have your eyes grew so heavy from the lack of sleep that they begin to ache? what was a like for you do have to push through in spite of all that, through the darkness, knowing she had been rejected in
islandia chosen for himself and had impact dragged all the people in louisiana. i wanted to create that. we made it as far as hume, arizona. it was there my parents have is that is beginning to veer from the road, i'd rented a buick by the way. he said if you had a buick -- if he was in a buick webmaster, you'd want it to. so i rented a buick. and we got to this part where i was fearing off the road. and my parents had, we must stop the car. they've been through jim crow and they had to go to the experience of not knowing whether he be able to stop them having to gather up and pack all the food i might possibly need. water you might need of the radiator were now. make sure you had your spare tire working. all of this effort they had to go through. and so my parents have been through that. they said to me as i was very not the road, stop the car.
we've been through this before ourselves. and if you want stuff, let us now. [laughter] simvastatin gamma, arizona and i felt very pardoned because he did not have that choice. there was no longer 1953. it is so expiring because it shows us how far we've come as a country, that i could not fully re-create it because her passing places we could stay. and my parents about, you know, we've been there done that. but stott. >> i remember as i was reading about in the margins, he did this about a cell phone. [laughter] i will leave my house to go down the street. >> and he was driving through the desert with no cell phone. actually he probably couldn't get service there. >> well, probably. [laughter] >> you know, when you talk about the appearances, the reason i spent so much time on it in the
book is because as i looked back with wisdom i started to understand my parents a little bit more. i just always thought they were taipei, you know, and that they kept the garden beautifully calm that we had to shovel snow before anybody else in the neighborhood shoveled snow. and i just thought that was sort of a work ethic. i realize everything they did and the way they ordered their stuff was a statement. you know, they were standing in a statement. our yard is taking care of, thank you very much. they were dressed in a certain way because they were asking for respect. they resort to real act to base in some ways in the way they dress and the way they demand that we dress. i didn't include this in the book. one of the things i discover i want to mention because you talk about burdens on the other side. you know, women of color would dress to go in town and birmingham all the time, you didn't go in a town without clothes. you know, you always had gloves on. you always were dress. the men wore hats.
and i'm going to tell you how old i am, but well into the period of time when people weren't really doing that, people of color still did that when they were to the business district and birmingham. and what i found and tried to find the police officers who shot my father, i was able to touch people of that generation who at that point would've lived on the other side of the color line. one of the things they talk to me about was having to dress a certain way consult the black folks were always dressed so nice. submit select the whole point was to rise above the black vote. so even if they wanted to go into town just for a simple cross, they couldn't because they had to prove that they were one step above. so you know, there were burdens on both sides, living on the other side and enforcement, trying to decide if you do say hello and if they would be a sanction for that. could you call that person mr. or mrs.? if he did u. office have sat on the other side of the color
line. their prices to be paid for that as well. >> s. wife hewitt has a caste system because they told people fixed in the place. that means that no one can move, even outside of the line dataset for them. the cast has set the mold for them. it's artificial by definition it cannot last forever because if you have a cast on a boat come you can't wait to get it out because it's not a natural way for human beings to live. and that's what the caste system is as i view it when you talk about that. >> to be honest, it's what you see sometimes in kids today in a different way. i mean, all the bling bling is sometimes an effort to say i have worth and i'm expressing my worth and a gigantic chain that has coming in now, a big gold encrusted cross. but it's done some ways sane i am of value. i want you to see me. this is who i am.
>> michele, one of the most interesting chapters for me was chapter on aunt jemima. i wonder if you can tell us about that and what most surprised you about your grandmother who played aunt jemima. >> first of all, if you use pancake mix and nephews and jemima pancake mix, and jemima today looks like girlfriend. she looks like she shops at macy's. she has a website, curls. she looks that she's on church council. what i discovered again and this. but in addition for my uncle quite by accident in a casual conversation as my grandmother had worked for a time as an itinerant and jemima. she had traveled throughout the midwest. shoot a six state region, dressed up in a headscarf and a hoop skirt i'm a selling pancake mix at a time when convenience cooking was not the norm. add water and stir was sort of knew at that time.
and my mother was so angry my uncle had talked about this. she just said she did like this. at my grandmother's life. and i couldn't let it go. and when i discovered is my grandmother had -- had earned a good deal of money doing that and they were and jemima's all across the country. there was one right here in texas. so she only had one statement what i discovered in my grandmother's case i got lucky. i found newspaper clippings of her work come under the headline and jemima is coming to town. a picture of my grandmother and her description of her work. and what she said issue would focus on children in these towns because she knew this was the first time they would ever see a person of color. and she wanted them to be left with a good impression. she would talk in a certain way to know she was educated. in this ring true to me even i had a hard time imagining her as aunt jemima because i remember this very polished churchwomen of my life.
i rang true because of the kids. she was always telling us to do that the g the door? could you please finish the word. it's not i'm going somewhere. i'm going somewhere. i rang true to me. she worked in their own way because by presenting this image of a hard-working woman who spoke the king's english and sane church songs when she worked was very different than the aunt jemima you would've encountered if you picked up a newspaper or a magazine of that day. because aunt jemima and didn't look like aunt jemima now. and aunt jemima then spoke with a certain state patch file, which was supposed to let you know that she was uneducated and fairly happy with her live. what i wound up doing and digging for that story was giving my family a gift in filling out the picture. because my mom and her siblings in the older folks in the family hated that story. but what i was able to show them through the research was granted this in her own way.
she took a job that could have been demeaning and lifted herself up with her earnings, but lifted her people up by serving as a kind of representative. i don't know what kind of hard bargain she made herself when she had to tie a headscarf, a do rag on her head. i don't know what that conversation was like. i do know what she talk to newspaper reporters about it, there was not shame in the way she described her work. and after hearing something that was very uncomfortable, that gave me great comfort and a good deal of pride. >> you in that chapter with three and aunt jemima with what we see reflected in the mirror of her history. what did she mean by that? >> what i realize that there's a whole lot of psychology wrapped up in aunt jemima and that why you jemima looks differently right now, just walk up to a black woman to call her aunt jemima. [laughter] all right, she might look benign. i just dare you to do it, you
know? [laughter] and get, when i talked to people, i did this exercise, no matter what i was researching what i've been led into the conversation, what you think about aunt jemima? there'd be like what? i'll tell you why a mask and commended to me a favor and tommy what you think. what i realized is many people -- black people had complicated views on this and many white americans had complicated views, but in a completely different way. i found a woman who runs a restaurant in mississippi if you've ever been there. it's a gigantic aunt jemima. and she's so large that the restaurant is in her hoop skirt. and she too has a makeover. she is lighter skin edges had a reduction. [laughter] the woman who runs the restaurant, you know, said i don't understand why people of color denigrate, why they don't
embrace her. as i am going to out here. and she said list in my community, so many of us are raised by women of color who worked in our family. and many of us have better relationships with their enemies than we did with their mothers. she said i don't understand why people don't honor that in some way. she said is that she ewers first? on the other hand, i talked to an african-american man in birmingham who said he and jemima looks like my grandmother and she's the smartest person i know. what bothers me is the company, through their advertisements come is trying to take that image and turn it into something ugly and is something i love. when someone can post your image, you don't control who you are. and so i realize she is so much more than just an icon. it's so much deeper than that. do not allow the store utility and of the story about the way kidman target. >> i have young children.
and my son's favorite food is pancakes. and he particularly likes and jemima pancakes. he likes the syrup bottle because she has her hand on her head. and i was arguing with him, can we just buy hungry jack. right now are making pancakes from scratch because there's only about five ingredients anyway. but i was at target. and the little boy at target, a little caucasian boy asked his mom, who's had jemima? and she looked at me. [laughter] with this expectant look on her face like -- i'm not going there. but after working on this boat, i would have a conversation with her. i would actually sit there at target and talk to her. i would say, you know, and jemima is my grandmother and let's talk about this. >> is about, you interviewed 1200 people -- more than 1200 people for your boat.
i'm curious how you settled on either make gladney, and george dolling. >> i served with a great deal of urgency because of migration began in 1915, world war i and didn't end until 1971 essentially the conditions that led to the migration ended in the south. and it was no longer the need for this outpouring of people to leave. so that meant there were three generations of people who participated in this directly. and i need to get 6 million of them and i needed to get to them as soon as i could. i felt this urgency because they were getting up in years and i wanted to be able to tell the story. so that meant the i had to go to all these places. i went to senior centers, aarp, catholic mass in los angeles, where many of the people are from louisiana and not catholic. i went to baptist churches in new york where everybody is from south carolina. i went to these little clubs that exist in all the cities
they represent the originating states where the people came from. as the lake charles, louisiana club and a los angeles. there is a member monroe, louisiana club in los angeles. there's hundreds as you can imagine. and there are similar clothes in chicago and also in detroit and in new york. what bothers places to find them. we stood essentially not titian, kind of a casting call. and i have this one case where it wanted to a senior center in los angeles. and i would go in and say i'm working on a book about the great migration. generally i had a story the general approach i would take and letting them know what i was doing. this one place i went in los angeles was on the schedule. there were certain days that were better to go than others. if there was bingo, that wasn't a good day. if there was a steak lunch, there was a good day. so i've gone on a good day. as on the schedule.
and before me on the schedule was a representative from the los angeles county department of aging. and he passed out brochures to the seniors who have been gathered there. he said, we are getting reports of our seniors being taken advantage of. there are people who are running scams on our seniors. they will ask you all kinds of questions about yourself. they will ask you where you are from, where you were born, when did you come to los angeles. how many children do you have? what you do for a living? just about everything i needed to know and more. he passes out and said next step, isabel wilkerson will be here to talk with you about it. unfortunately, either they had not been listening because they were focused on a steak dinner where they found me to be especially trustworthy or whatever. i don't know what the reason was, but i was able to talk with them. that's what i did for many months in trying to find people. it was like auditioning.
and then i narrowed it down to the street. and the three were people i needed to have three protagonists, people you've never heard of, so you could see yourself in these people and what they had gone through. three people, each of whom would recognize three strands of the great migration. one would represent the east coast, the other the one in the middle and then the one that is obviously near and dear to people in texas because many people in texas know people in los angeles or other parts of california because of the constant back-and-forth. and so i wanted to tell that stream. that is history was written about. i need to find three people and i wanted each of them to above two different decade coverage give a sense of the breadth and scope of this migration. i may also need people of different classes because there's great differences, stratification even among people who had been in a caste system. they were cast but then cast in the south. and i wanted to be electrified
that. also i just did a great characters, people who are very open and honest about themselves, who you could read a page and know you were reading about ida mae or turn to another one and know this is george. or you could read about dr. foster, who became an inveterate gambler. he was a rapper turf. and so, you would know you're reading about by turning the page. so people who you could see yourself in and become engaged in. one of the big questions i get about the book is that the lesson that will shout for the back of the room. why are there no pictures in the book? in my editor and i decided simultaneously there should be none because we wanted the reader to be a let's see him or herself in these people. now the people's photographs because they got the question so much and they also service on the internet that more interviews have been done is wonderful. you can see them now, but
they're not in the book itself because we don't want people to be distracted by that. but i needed three people who would together tell the story of the app until now anonymous, beautiful, amazing and courageous people who made the decision of their lives and affected us in so many ways that were still trying to figure it out. i mean, so many famous people are projects of the great migration. michele is a product of this great migration. toni morrison is a product of this great vacation. her parents migrated from alabama to ohio where she got the chance to do something for any budding writer would absolutely have to deal to do, but she would not have been able to do in alabama, which is going to a public library and pick out above. she would have been able to do that. her parents saw that in the migrated to ohio where she had the opportunity to get exposed to that. august wilson, lorraine some of the huge names in
literature are all products of the great migration. and in music, and what makes it if there were great negation. berry gordy come as parents might be from georgia to detroit where once he became a grown man he decided he wanted to go into the music industry. he didn't have the money to go scout for talent. what he did was looked around him. and there was diana's ross. it was a great source of huge talent. and so are mary wilson and florence ballard. all of them were children of the great migration. aretha franklin will also her parents came up from the south. so many people created an entire new art form. it's hard to imagine the culture would be like had there been no motown. and when it comes to jazz. jazz wouldn't exist as we know it. miles davis whose parents migrated from arkansas to illinois. he would never have had the opportunity to spend hours upon
hours that would've been necessary to hone his genius and become the musician he was head of parents not migrated out of the cotton country of arkansas. thelonious monk, his parents migrated was five years old to north carolina to harlem where he had the luxury -- this never would've been possible in tobacco country of north carolina to spend hours upon hours upon hours to give music lessons. it would've been no time to do that in the cotton country out in the farmland were small-town north carolina. and john cole trained -- john cole trained migrated at 17 for north carolina to philadelphia, where believe it or not he got his first alto sax. where we jazz be if he had not migrated or bank part of the migration and had the opportunity to go to the ornstein school of music. and part is so much that people
in his apartment in philadelphia complained. the nerve of complaining because john cole trained -- the man is 12 feet. he's playing about arts and hours of the night. i bet you anything that all those people would deny up and down day if they complained about john will train. he played so much you to turn to the minister who gave him the keys to the church to plato part was content. one of the unknown things are unrecognized things that each dream is a beautiful translation of the southern state and culture from witches abroad. in other words, the migration from texas to louisiana, those people are very different. the culture is different. i had to learn to read all kinds of food i was not accustomed to because the food and music in the language and the references were totally different. and the question you would get us where are your people from?
and in los angeles, my people were not from the streams that it created the los angeles -- the migration experience. by people from georgia. it was not always so easy to go out and interview people. and so it turned out that miles davis and stallone and his blog not used to fight over john cole train. i discovered this and all this book research. and it turned out he always had a special feeling for thelonious monk because they came from the same strain. they're people with the same people. this is a permutation that shows you how different the african-american experience is even with their own country, whenever it comes to missile what things are different. one thing i have to discover it was who became a big issue. in chicago, i was exposed to. i was on a bus heading to -- with some seniors to a riverboat casino. it's a big thing for seniors and the world i was entering. and someone broke out a delicacy that everyone -- there was an up
or on the bus. i was wondering about what is this thing? it'd been brought up from mississippi chemistry direct from the source. it was the good stuff. it was hard headcheese. [laughter] >> with pickled eggs? [laughter] i had never heard of it before. never heard of it because the migration steamed -- we could talk about scrabbling grits but we weren't exposed to that. what i was same as the culture, the people carry the culture with them. in some ways they were ambassadors for the south. it's a beautiful thing they did, so that the culture, american culture and urban, northern and western culture is a merit to the north and the south as it was altered for the arrival of these people. and were still living with the effects. the world benefits from the effects of all of this. where the primary beneficiaries
as were the children who had the opportunity to grow up in a freer place. at that time, now everything is different in reverse migration. at that moment that was the thing they needed you and they did it for their children. the mac way of about 15 minutes left. if people want to line up to ask michele and isabel questions. the question ought to ask him you talked about, michele, yearbook numbers from the contributions about race. i'm curious how you feel like your book has contributed to conversations about race at our side and unsaid. you talk a lot about how both white people and black people have these conversations, sometimes with each other, often not with each other. how do you feel like your book will contribute to the conversation? >> i feel like it's come full circle. i set out to read a book about hidden conversation about race and what about the hidden conversation of my family. as i travel the country now i'm a 30 plus book tour, i find myself swimming in that conversation. people often come to hear about
my story and wind up telling me there is. i website i have actually a link called your story, where people can actually leave their stories. i wound up writing a book about race, but in many ways it's not about race. i mean, i captured my racial legacy because of these hidden conversations that suddenly period of historical indigestion and my family, where things just started coming up. that's the thread. but the broader tapestry is about essential question. how well do you really know the people who raised you? how much do you really know of their history? in my case there was a complicated racial legacy i didn't fully know about. but you know, whether it's a depression or the dust bowl or the holocaust or polio epidemic, parents are often very careful about what they tell their
children. and if they want their children to sword, they don't put rocks in their pockets on the way out the door. they keep their hardest stories to themselves. i call this the grace of silence, but i hope it would start the conversation. and i think it's starting to happen. and in some ways, i've decided that there is benefit in having those conversations in trying to capture your history because it your history. it's your birthright. and even if it's a difficult history, it's yours, an incredible gift to be about to take that and pass it on to your children. he might not want to put rocks in their pockets, but it's okay to put pebbles on there because they need to be grounded. they need to know where they came from. and in the end, i hope that it has contributed in some small way that people might be interested in their own history. people might pick up a book about something not just about my family, about america. i mean, there was a big revelations with grandma, aunt
jemima. my father was shot. i took that to bed for days after that. but there were small revelations that i learned about the countries, but all things that painted a bigger picture. i hope when people read the book, that they'll put it down to want to talk to someone about it. a family member, a coworker. i hope that is my grief. i shared with you that my grandmother just turned 95 and i'm having a hard time not trying to go back and tell her these stories because she doesn't remember a lot. get the stories out, especially of older people who may not remember? >> isabell spent so much time talking to older people i'm sure we'll have advice as well. a couple things are really simple. if you want to test her older people they don't tell you certain stores, particularly, ask them about the area. you may not typical in the front door, but you cannot count on the side doors. if you know they loved it -- the
yankees, but i'm in the wrong state for that. [laughter] but if you know they loved baseball or you know loved football, you know, educate yourself about the 1950s or the 1960s. ask them about that. what would she wear when you were not on a saturday night quiet what kind of music we're listening to? or none into the era and get them comfortable and maybe those stories will start to come forth. tape it if you can. i mean, i have a hard time talking about this because it makes a very sad, but my father died in 1988. i worked in radio. a sermon audio all day long and my children would never hear my father's voice because i never recorded it. and if you can record the people you love, take the opportunity. you don't have to invest a lot of money or phones usually have recording devices on them. you can record than the quality. take the time to do that.
and the last thing i would suggest you is do it over food. [laughter] every time i learn something profound about my family, it was always at the table. every time i needed to have a difficult conversation with someone that was not related to me, i was usually introduced food to kind of lubricate the conversation. if you have a person who loves the lemon meringue pie come and get them in my high peace. if they like the pineapple upside down cake, the part that's burnt and crispy on the edge, make sure they get that peace and that will bring back memories. they don't call it comfort food for nothing. >> i would say that i actually shared a lot of the experiences that michelle had with their own parents. my parents -- my mother in particular never talked about her experience in the south. in the process of doing the research in the book i'm interviewing over 1200 people for this, it turns out my own
mother was not talking, not talking. she was by far the toughest interview i had. she didn't want to talk. that's ancient history, who wants to talk about that? she was not going to talk. there's a few references an ibook to my family's experience of the migration. every single thing that you might see in this book, i learned in the course of research not growing up because my mother did not talk about it. i discover things about how my uncle had left. he left because he found the clan rope of the man he was working for and decided he would leave for detroit as soon as possible. and so i had no idea. the way that i thought of some of this as i read every word of this book to my mother and my father passed away. he did not lead to the publication of this book. it was such a heart-wrenching thing for me because he so believed in it. i read every word of this book to her.
and that a certain point, could not leave it to her because she kept interrupting, saying all the things good and she started talking about all the things banana syndrome, georgia or at my mother used to do. i found in some ways my hope is that by making it okay, by validating these experiences, because they are dignified and incredible thing, it would make people more willing to talk about that. one of the places i went, i was in los angeles doing a reading and the mother -- a father and his daughter showed up and assign the book and they told me, we're getting ready to go right "avatar." he hadn't talked before, but we're going to sit and talk now because maybe this would be an inspiration for doing that. and michael would be that the people i've written about are not just african-americans who left one place for another. in some ways they left for the same reason any of our forebears would've ever left any part of this world to be on the land
they were now on. michael would be for us to see common and been led to believe. i love when people come up and say my great grandparents came from romania. i love it. that's exactly the goal of all this. my hope would be that it would make everyone want to go back, find the oldest person in their family, take the lemon meringue pie, whatever it may take. i found it was quite helpful to get them to describe the recipes. have them cook bananas start to come out. there's actually a crisis in my book, where ida mae for mississippi discovers that they're using delphi seemed deal for the cornbread in mississippi and she says some issues. we never made it like that before in all countries. and our friend who is from italy, who as an italian-american descent. she said to go through the exact same thing with apostate. we are making it from scratch and doing the right thing.
and they're not doing that. and so, i love the way of getting people to talk as often by going words are not getting resistance. where do they feel comfortable and hoping they'll eat you from there. >> i know we have to go to questions, but two other quick things. the other thing you can do is use your children. because mine were a big help to me. i have young children. and my mother also did not want to talk about any of this. i could move forward until she got in the boat. it took a lot for her to do that and she's incredible and i'm so glad that she did. we've learned quite a bit because of that. one of the extra ways was that the kids could ask her questions. children are innocent and demanding at the same time and they can get away with asking questions that you never can get away with. i found that mom would talk to me through my kids. and the last thing i would leave with before we go to questions is if you really do want to capture history, you have a
wonderful opportunity to do that the day after thanksgiving. if you're an npr listener, you're familiar with story corps. he championed a national holiday. it's a relatively new one, you might not know about it. but after thanksgiving, when a lot of people go to the mall and a lot of us are already with family members. you're eating leftovers, watching football. while you're altogether, take the opportunity on the national day of listening to listen to the people that you love. chronicle their stories and put them away. >> are the questions people want to ask? because i have others. [applause] [inaudible]
[inaudible] [laughter] >> another migration that is worth documenting, although its larger visible and that's the phenomenon called passing. a century ago, is routinely estimated that 5000 to 10,000 black people were turning into "the new york times" critic. my question comes to leading an account by the first white person to turn himself black and travel to the south, which is not john howard griffin, grace pergola 1948 the land of jim crow. he uses the expression come you can't figure behind demand for the economic exploitation of sharecroppers that is about recorded. can you explain for the audience which you can't figure behind the man refers to? >> the question i was asked was about the concept of passing african-americans who attest for white mostly.
>> i have discovered about a dozen stories, just in the last two weeks, mainly coming over the transom, through this link on my website, where people are e-mailing me stories that have passed our people. it is a phenomenon in this country that is greater than even the numbers you cited. it probably happened quite often. and it's something that i would love to know more about. in each of these cases, it's a tortured decision to try and figure out how to reclaim family members come you know, it reached over to the other side. i would pull your question a little bit further amok around the room. look at african-americans. look at what they look like in this country. the fact is many of us are related to many of you. and no one really wants to talk
a lot about that, but that is sort of the american -- another part of the hidden conversation in america. >> she has basically, obviously your message, your stories are about the folder population. have you had an experience with trying to tell the stories to younger people, maybe not necessarily done for african-americans, but kids who can't subtext in, can't stop looking online. this is sadly something that has a lot of resonance with people in the community. the idea of migration and looking for better pastures. to have an experience with people manage group? >> i would respond in two ways. it takes a while to get the book and to read them and pass it on. but when it comes to the migration, there are many people in a quote, unquote, hip hop generation part of -- that are in the great migration.
snoop doggy dogg, his family migrated from mississippi to los angeles. sean combs, his family migrated from north carolina to new york. to pop was one of the probably people of his generation that is a descendent of that migration, also from north carolina to new york. so i think it takes time for people to recognize the connection. that's the reason why we want to record history because maybe people are not ready for it now, but one day they will be. i have a friend who bought a former fat girl. she wants me to sign it because she can't read it now, but one day she will be able to. and i think that's beautiful. >> we have time for one more question. >> well, i won't tell my story, even i want to very much. do you guys have any sense of what that migration has done for
the south itself, for people who are still there? how maybe the culture reverberated a little bit and changed things are made things better there? have you seen any of that? >> well, it's my contention that the great migration help to accelerate the drive toward civil rights and for the end of the caste system in which the people were cleaned. in other words, show the first of all the lower caste of this caste system, the people who are being underpaid are not paid at all because they're looking for the rights to live on the land they were farming, had options and were willing to take them. that caused a great of handling south. they had to figure out what are we going to do? editorials over the place about what to do. what do we do? and there would be wholesale arrest of african-americans on the railroad platform when there were large groups of people trying to leave. authorities would board the train and arrest them in their
seats if there were large amounts of people leaving. there was a great deal of attempts for people to leave. ultimately, it also led to an opening up of the sense of opportunities for those that stayed. maybe the people didn't want to go, but they had an opportunity to see what was life like in a place that was freer. that helped to set in motion what would not have been possible at the beginning of the great migration, when there was believe it or not, there was a lynching somewhere in the south every three days and in the decades before the migration in the early decades of the migration. so this is a very real threat people are living under. so would not have been possible for people to be marching in the streets and protesting as they later wed in the 60s. at that time in the 1960s come african-americans were here and the way people who supported the effort towards freedom have more support for being able to move forward. that's had an immense effect on
the south. that meant people knew there was a place they could go and there were people coming back, showing them how they were freer in the north. even if some of it wasn't true. in other words, they would save all year for that matching hat and coat. people in the south didn't know what, but they put on a show. the final thing they did was they provided leverage for people who were here and might of these a place to go once they put themselves on the line. that's black-and-white. in other people in the north, as immigrants often do, were sending money back south to help move this process forward because they loved the land. they are not want to leave. one of the beautiful quotes from someone who is in the early stages was if i'd had a choice, i would not have left. if i could do anything i wanted, i would not have left the south. but those who left ultimately sad -- i heard it over and over again in one form or another, based on how things were, i've
made many statements in my life, believing the south was not one of them. they were part of a generation that had no choice. they also feel that the south can take great pride in what these people did because these people did what they did not just because they left, but because they left with some culture. that is southern culture was the music of the gospel, the rhythms that john cole trained to quit and to philadelphia, when he got that fact. he has a lot to the south in his word. so i think there's a sharing sharing between the two and there's an interchange between the two. >> there was also a military expect as well and i see that when i go to birmingham. what you had was the last place you also have a certain kind of bright light. people who could leave, last. people who were the most ambitious last. when i go back to the birmingham
used to know as a kid, which was this vibrant black business district, it's decimated now. you know, it's difficult to talk about this. when you talk about integration coming on the whole talk about progress, moving forward. but under segregation, doctors and ditch diggers lived on the street from each other. they sent their kids to the same schools. they lived in the community that by not have been rich, but was rich and social capital. and what happened is when people could move, you had this dias brett and that sort of took something from that community. black business has suffered. in birmingham come into the 1960s, he went two carper high, the only high school for. it was so large if you want to birmingham they sold postcards with pictures of the high school on it. i can with a number of people who have gone there, which is long and quite illustrious. when my father went to parker,
all of the teachers, all of them, every single one of them have masters degrees because they couldn't work anywhere else. and so, they went into teaching. that's a bad thing. they couldn't go to work anywhere else, but imagine the kind of education you would get and that kind of environment. so, there was this sort of underside to integration that we don't always talk about, but i do face a very painful ways of writing this book and something that really makes me -- makes me quite sad. >> thank you. we've run out of time. and i want -- [applause] i want to thank you for coming and sharing this hour with isabel, michele and me. i'll be signing books in about 15 minutes and the author stands, which is on the other side of this. thank you. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> this event was part of the texas book festival. to find out more about the festival and authors that appeared there, visit texas book festival.org. >> i'm holding the essential engineer, why science alone wile ou not solve our global problems. e it's other joints me, henry petrosky. welcome, sir. tell us, what iswh the reasoning and a subtitle here, why science alone will not solve our globals problems? climate change and we also hear a lot about the importance of what science will do to help alleviate these problems or out rights all them. the history of science and technology teaches us that science and scientists generally do not solve problems, they help but engineers of the problem
solvers. engineers and problem solving are really hand and glove. >> in your book you define the difference between scientists and engineers and how they were together, tell us about that. >> scientists generally want to understand the world given to us, the universe, classic sign to study the planets and stars and the origin of the universe. assembling knowledge really, getting to the bottom of things but engineers, on the other hand, want to change of world and introduce new things coming new machines and devices, things that contribute to our civilization and comfort. scientists and engineers it to gather in research and development which we hear a lot about but the scientists are on the research and and engineers are on the development and and there has to be passing of the baton from understanding the situation to change in the situation through engineering. >> what's the difference between
how engineering and science god as to where we are and engineering and science will take us into the future? >> as you know a lot of people think that those are the people that got us into trouble in the first place. we always have incomplete knowledge, science is always accumulating for their knowledge so we are working as engineers with incomplete knowledge of the world's and the laws of nature. so we make mistakes in that sense. innocent mistakes in the sense that they were done generally speaking without full knowledge of their implications. that's not to excuse them because we should look down the lines to what the implications of what ever we do will be, however, if we try to study the problems in depth we never get to studying the problem and that is a fine engine to really separate the issues.
two d. and. and i described these as speed bumps because they think it's a very good metaphor. it's not original with me actually. you know, speed bumps are sometimes helpful. and i try to point that out in the book also, that they make us think, because recalibrate, make us think about whether maybe were not on the right road or the right street. you know, we're being reminded of that. or we're going too fast, which gets back to what were just talking about. if we're going to fast way solution, we might miss some of the implications that we might regret later on. image are going to present later on at the national booknd the b festival. what we tell the folks that come >> iee you?
>> i've only got 20 minutes to allow for times for question and answers, so i'm going to focus on the difference doing sciencef and engineering. i think there's a general misunderstanding aboutth that.d. a lot of times engineers are just grouped with scientists. not that they present that but it is inaccurate because of the distinction that i try to draw. especially in these days when we're trying to deal with so many global problems. important issues. we hear a lot out of washington where we are, that if we want to innovate, of want to change the way we do things to affect the economy and improve it we need to throw more money at science. that leaves engineering out of the equation entirely. maybe there's a confusion. maybe engineers are intended to be included in science but more often than not it is clear that
they're not included. and by not understanding that connection we miss opportunities. all the great innovations of the world and all history our engineering innovations can they are usually done if not always done with incomplete scientific knowledge and i will talk about some of those examples this afternoon such as the steam engine. there were no signs on which to base the steam engine. it was only after the steam engine was operating for a couple centuries that scientists began to look at it as an object for study. the right brothers are another excellent example of trying to develop an airplane and give us powered flight. the right brothers looked for scientific basis on which to design their wing and propellers and even wrote to the smithsonian institution and asked what do you have in your files that will help us and they got there is nothing directly related to what you want to do. so what the right brothers had to do was go and do their own
science. they had to do tests to figure out what shape of propeller should have. something as simple and basic as that. the airplane was developed with a very little science to back up and i want to emphasize things like that this afternoon so that we understand that if we just wait for science to bring us the raw materials for innovation we're going to have to either way very long time or they're wasting time because we don't need complete information to move ahead. >> they you consider yourself a scientist or an engineer? >> i consider myself both. but i am in engineer in that i am very interested in -- books i see as creations but i am a scientist cause i do have to get to the heart of the matter and in most of my studying, includes a lot of science.
so you really learn to think like a scientist as well as an engineer. one of the things i will talk about is albert einstein to show you can be both. he is a classic example but it is not widely known. is widely known he worked on patents when he was young because he couldn't get a job as a scientist. but in the 1920s he began to be an inventor in his own right. after he won the nobel prize he could have sat back and do science but there is a special challenge to invention and engineering. hat he did was a veryunda ..s were very new. they were subject to weeks and the refrigerant they leak was poisonous. so whole families were being killed when they were sleeping because of a leaking refrigerator. einstein said there