Pulitzer Prize winner speaks at St. Thomas

Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration and the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, spoke in the St. Thomas O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium Thursday evening.

Minnesota Public Radio’s Stephen Smith interviewed Wilkerson on her multiple-award-winning book, which archives the movement of African Americans out of the South and into the industrial North. Wilkerson spent fifteen years researching material for the book and interviewed 1,200 people in the process.

Kris Bunton, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and coordinator of the Broadcast Journalism Series, had nothing but good things to say about the book.

“This book is fabulous,” she said. “It was on President Obama’s summer reading list. It’s kind of a landmark in African American history, and we really wanted to hear more about why she wrote the book and what she learned.”

Wilkerson spoke about the book in great length going into detail about Jim Crow laws in the South, the time she spent interviewing her three main characters and about her personal connection to the migration: her parents.

When asked about her motivation to write the book, Wilkerson said she wanted to shed light on a “watershed moment in American history: The first time the lowest caste system could actually choose what they wanted to do.”

Sophomore Samantha Schoeben was impressed with the event.

“I thought it was really interesting,” Schoeben said. “I like how (she) highlighted something a lot of people have kind of forgotten about today. People should definitely hear stories like this and recognize what African Americans had to go through.”

Wilkerson has been participating in events on campus relating to her book since Nov. 1 and will wrap up her visit to St. Thomas Friday night at the annual dinner and fundraiser for ThreeSixty Journalism.

Jessica Barton can be reached at bart2049@stthomas.edu.