Books: Non-Fiction

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream

Book — Non-fiction. By Blair Imani. 2020. 192 pages.
An illustrated chronicle of the Great Migration and African American history in the 20th century.

Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century, All US History
Themes: African American, Immigration

The Great Migration — when six million Black Americans left the U.S. South for northern and western cities, driven by economic hardships and domestic terrorism.

Through gripping and accessible historical narrative, family stories, illustrations, and infographics, author and activist Blair Imani examines this largely overlooked cultural sea change and how it impacted — and continues to impact — the United States and Black identity today.

Recommended for grades 3-7, Making Our Way Home examines voting rights, politics, domestic terrorism, discrimination, and segregation alongside arts and culture, activism, and the Civil Rights Movement. Elementary school students will learn about how these influences shaped labor and wealth distribution through the stories of famous people in addition to family oral histories. Prominent people like Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Baldwin, and others are spotlighted alongside the larger historical and cultural narratives of the Great Migration. [Description adapted from the publisher.]

Blair Imani says in her introduction,

Growing up, I often wondered what had happened during the years between the end of chattel slavery and the start of the Civil Rights movement. I often joked that Black people disappeared from the face of the earth during World War I and World War II only to return with music, afros, and righteous indignation in the late 1950s. In reality, Black Americans have been present throughout every chapter of American history, having served in every war in which America was involved and contributing to the culture, economy, and very identity of the United States. To put it plainly, the story of America is incomplete if it is told absent the story of Black America. . . Very few Americans are even aware that over six million Black people moved across the United States from 1910 to 1979 in a period known as the Great Migration.  . . .

My own family moved from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Los Angeles, California, following the lynching of Willie Kees in 1936. Lynchings had become an extremely common form of mass intimidation, and following this particular lynching, the Ku Klux Klan threatened any Black person who dared to resume their daily routine. My great-grandfather, Vernon Dunlap, whom I knew as Big Daddy, defiantly went to work the day following the lynching despite the threat of violence from white supremacists. He was spotted on his way to work and, faced with the threat of being lynched himself, he was forced to leave his young family behind and headed west in the dead of night. About a month later, Big Daddy was able to settle in California. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Little Rock on a mission to evacuate his whole community and bring them as refugees to the promised land. . .

Black history is so much more than the snapshots that white institutions allow us to hold on to. It is time we pull away the cover obscuring the rich history of Black America during what has come to be known as the Great Migration. From the time of Reconstruction to the birth of hip-hop, millions of Black Americans moved across — and fundamentally changed — the United States to forge a better future. [Read full introduction.]

Foreword by Patrisse Cullors and illustrations by Rachelle Baker.

Audio Excerpt

Reviews

Making Our Way Home takes you on a riveting journey through the history of African American migration. Blair Imani crafts a poignant narrative that is an accessible, enjoyable, and valuable contribution to our people’s history. The colorful imagery, lesser-known moments, and powerful statements on our tenacity and fortitude come together in a beautiful work of art. —Feminista Jones, activist and author of Reclaiming Our Space

Lively, highly readable, and beautifully illustrated, Making Our Way Home is a wonderful primer on the Great Migration and African American life between 1910 and 1979. —Dr. Stephen Finley, director of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University

ISBN: 9781984856920 | Published by Ten Speed Press.

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