Quotes by Isabel Wilkerson

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It occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography could not save me. more...

The suburbanization and the ghettos that were created as a result of the limits of where [African-Americans] could live in the North [still exist today.] And ... the South was forced to change, in part because they were losing such a large part of their workforce through the Great Migration. more...

[The Great Migration] had such an effect on almost every aspect of our lives - from the music that we listen to to the politics of our country to the ways the cities even look and feel. more...

And in some ways, to me, that's one of the inspiring and powerful things about the Great Migration itself. There was no leader, there was no one person who set the date who said, 'On this date, people will leave the South.' They left on their own accord for as many reasons as there are people who left. They made a choice that they were not going to live under the system into which they were born anymore and in some ways, it was the first step that the nation's servant class ever took without asking. more...

At the beginning of the 20th century, before the migration began, 90 percent of all African-Americans were living in the South. By the end of the Great Migration, nearly half of them were living outside the South in the great cities of the North and West. So when this migration began, you had a really small number of people who were living in the North and they were surviving as porters or domestics or preachers - some had risen to levels of professional jobs - but they were, in some ways, protected because they were so small. more...

My parents absolutely did not think of themselves as part of the Great Migration. They knew they were part of a great wave. No one really talked about it in those terms or gave it a name. more...

My parents sent me to a school across town, an integrated school, where I had the chance to meet and grow up with people who were from other parts of the world. ... I remember feeling that I would never have anything to contribute on St. Patrick's Day. I couldn't tell the stories that they might have been telling about their forebears and I felt left out. more...

There were colored and white waiting rooms everywhere, from doctor's offices to the bus stations, as people may already know. But there were actually colored windows at the post office in, for example, Pensacola, Florida. And there were white and colored telephone booths in Oklahoma. And there were separate windows where white people and black people would go to get their license plates in Indianola, Mississippi. And there were even separate tellers to make your deposits at the First National Bank in Atlanta. more...

Sometimes in some places they would actually stop the train - keep the train from stopping at a particular station because they saw that there were so many black people there waiting to board and so therefore those people wouldn't get to leave. more...

You must leave this world a better place than it would have been if you had not existed. more...

That's one of the biggest losses, I think, to African American families, is that people, once they left, they turned away from the South. They didn't look back, and they often didn't tell their children about it. They didn't want to talk about it. It was too painful, what they'd gone through and the caste system of the South, which was Jim Crow. more...

What I love about the stories of the Great Migration is that this is not ancient history; this is living history. Most people of color can find someone in their own family who had experienced a migration of some kind, knowing the sense of dislocation, longing and fortitude. more...

Many immigrants do not talk about what they endured back home. They were fleeing that world, and when they left they didn't want to talk about it because there had been pain and heartbreak under the caste system of the South. They didn't want to burden their children with what they had endured. more...

There are certain things that we take for granted that simply would not have existed without the great migration. Motown, for example, would not have existed - it simply would not, because Berry Gordy, the founder of it, his parents had migrated from Georgia to Detroit where he founded Motown, and where did he get his talent? more...

Well, I'm a daughter of the great migration as, really, the majority of African Americans that you meet in the north and west are products of the great migration. It's that massive. Many of us owe our very existence to the fact that people migrated. more...

It was illegal for black people and white people to play checkers together in Birmingham. And there were even black and white Bibles to swear to tell the truth on in many parts of the South. more...

America is made up of people who came from someplace else. Even the Native Americans came over the Bering strait... America is what it is because people came from someplace else. more...

People leave when life becomes untenable where they are. more...

Miles Davis, his parents migrated from Arkansas to Illinois, where he had the luxury of being able to practice for hours upon hours. He never would have been able to do that in the cotton country of Arkansas. more...

I mean my mother migrated from Georgia -Rome, Georgia, to Washington, D.C., where she then met my father, who was a Tuskegee Airman who was from Southern Virginia. They migrated to Washington and I wouldn't even exist if it were not for that migration. And I brought her back to Georgia, both my parents, actually. more...

Anything that could be conceived of that would separate black people from white people was devised and codified by someone in some state in the South. There were colored and White waiting rooms everywhere, from doctor's offices to the bus stations, as people may already know. more...


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