The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Description

Cover image of The Warmth of Other Suns - The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

My Thoughts

I thought this book was excellent. Far from a dry examination of events and causes, it began with some historical context and examples of life under Jim Crow laws in the South.

It picks up the stories of three specific individuals and follows them through life, starting with their decision to leave their homeland in the South and migrate to the North to have the freedom they were promised by their country.

The narrative jumps between the characters, but rather than keeping the chronological timeline strictly coherent, it tracks their life progress. For instance, the chapter describing when they left is set in three different decades.

One thing that really struck me is just how recently Jim Crow laws were enforced, resulting in—for all practical intents and purposes—the continuation of slavery.

Quotes

An invisible hand ruled their lives and the lives of all the colored people in Chickasaw County and the rest of Mississippi and the entire South for that matter. …[T]here was mostly fear and dependence—and hatred of that dependence—on both sides.

— Page 43

Across the South, someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929, according to the 1933 book The Tragedy of Lynching, for such alleged crimes as “stealing hogs, horse-stealing, poisoning mules, jumping labor contract, suspected of killing cattle, boastful remarks” or “trying to act like a white person.” Sixty-six were killed after being accused of “insult to a white person.” One was killed for stealing seventy-five cents.

— Page 53, emphasis added

Jim Crow had a way of turning everyone against one another, not just white against black or landed against lowly, but poor against poorer and black against black for an extra scrap of privilege.

— Page 63

The dance of the compliant sharecropper conceding to the big planter year in and year out made it seem as if the ritual actually made sense, that the sharecropper, having been given no choice, actually saw the tilted scales as fair. The sharecropper’s forced silence was part of the collusion that fed the mythology.

— Page 198

The South, totalitarian and unyielding, was at that very moment succeeding at what white Harlem leaders were so desperately trying to do, that is, controlling the movements of blacks by controlling the minds of whites.

— Page 288

Contrary to modern-day assumptions, for much of the history of the United States—from the Draft Riots of the 1860s to the violence over desegregation a century later—riots were often carried out by disaffected whites against groups perceived as threats to their survival. Thus riots would become to the North what lynchings were to the South, each a display of uncontained rage by put-upon people directed toward the scapegoats of their condition. Nearly every big northern city experienced one or more during the twentieth century.

— Page 314

The reality was that Jim Crow filtered through the economy, north and south, and pressed down on poor and working-class people of all races. The southern caste system that held down the wages of colored people also undercut the earning power of the whites around them, who could not command higher pay as long [as there were colored people willing to do the same jobs].

— Page 363

[T]he sociologist Gunnar Myrdal called [this] the Northern Paradox: In the North, Myrdal wrote, “almost everybody is against discrimination in general, but, at the same time, almost everybody practices discrimination in his own personal affairs”—that is, by not allowing blacks into unions or clubhouses, certain jobs, and white neighborhoods, indeed, avoiding social interaction overall. “It is the culmination of all these personal discriminations,” he continued, “which creates the color bar in the North, and, for the Negro, causes unusually severe unemployment, crowded housing conditions, crime and vice. About this social process, the ordinary white Northerner keeps sublimely ignorant and unconcerned.”

— Page 441

The hierarchy in the North “called for blacks to remain in their station,” Lieberson wrote, while immigrants were rewarded for “their ability to leave their old world traits” and become American as quickly as possible.

— Page 475

With the benefit of hindsight, the century between Reconstruction and the end of the Great Migration perhaps may be seen as a necessary stage of upheaval. It was a transition from an era when one race owned another; to an era when the dominant class gave up ownership but kept control over the people it once had owned, at all costs, using violence even; to the eventual acceptance of the servant caste into the mainstream.

— Page 608

Perhaps it is not a question of whether the migrants brought good or ill to the cities they fled to or were pushed or pulled to their destinations, but a question of how they summoned the courage to leave in the first place or how they found the will to press beyond the forces against them and the faith in a country that had rejected them for so long. By their actions, they did not dream the American Dream, they willed it into being by a definition of their own choosing. They did not ask to be accepted but declared themselves the Americans that perhaps few others recognized but that they had always been deep within their hearts.

— Page 608

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Using Laravel artisan tinker and psysh with Xdebug

I often use Xdebug for troubleshooting and interactively debugging local code as I write it.

Laravel’s artisan command is extremely useful for running code interactively during development. (It’s based on another utility named psysh.)

It can be very useful to set some debug breakpoints and then run code interactively using artisan, but occasionally when I run php artisan tinker, the PHP shell just sits there and doesn’t accept any input until I kill my xdebug listener.

Thanks to this issue, I finally have a solution.

Add this to the psysh config file (~/.config/psysh/config.php on macOS):

<?php
return [
  'usePcntl' => false,
];

VS Code and Laravel Tasks

Several of my recent projects are Laravel apps that use Horizon to manage the queue and run jobs.

However, I frequently forgot to run php artisan horizon when opening the project, and sometimes spent a bit of time trying to figure out why a job hadn’t run before remembering. 🤦

In addition—and this is a relatively minor annoyance—even when I do remember to start Horizon, sometimes I’d like to see the metrics dashboard showing how many jobs have run in the past few minutes.

Edit: I added npm run watch to help with Tailwind JIT mode.

Workspace Tasks

Enter VS Code’s Tasks feature. This can automatically start running tasks when a workspace is opened.

To get set up:

  1. Open the command palette (command-shift-P) and activate “Tasks: Manage Automatic Tasks in Folder”
  2. Activate “Allow Automatic Tasks in Folder”
  3. Open the command palette again and activate “Tasks: Open Workspace Tasks”
  4. Add the following to the workspace:

Now every time I open the workspace, assets are rebuilt as I modify them and Horizon and the scheduler run automatically.

Shuttle, Houston: My Life in the Center Seat of Mission Control

Description

A compelling look inside the Space Shuttle missions that helped lay the groundwork for the Space Age, Shuttle, Houston explores the determined personalities, technological miracles, and eleventh-hour saves that have given us human spaceflight.

Relaying stories of missions (and their grueling training) in vivid detail, Paul Dye, NASA’s longest-serving Flight Director, examines the split-second decisions that the directors and astronauts were forced to make in a field where mistakes are unthinkable, and where errors led to the loss of national resources—and more importantly one’s crew. Dye’s stories from the heart of Mission Control explain the mysteries of flying the Shuttle—from the powerful fiery ascent to the majesty of on-orbit operations to the high-speed and critical re-entry and landing of a hundred-ton glider.

The Space Shuttles flew 135 missions. Astronauts conducted space walks, captured satellites, and docked with the Mir Space Station, bringing space into our everyday life, from GPS to satellite TV. Shuttle, Houston puts readers in his own seat at Mission Control, the hub that made humanity’s leap into a new frontier possible.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Personally, I found the first chapter most interesting, as he described technical details of many of the major systems of the Shuttle.

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Character Matters

Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol demonstrates clearly why the character of our leaders matters; why “the policies are the important thing” and “we’re not electing a pastor” are poor excuses to gain power.

President Trump for five years has shown nothing but disregard for laws and norms in his quest for power. He consistently encouraged those who support him to do the same.

Remember when he said he could shoot a person in public and still be elected? Or encouraged supporters at a rally to assault a protestor, adding that he would pay the legal fees?

This type of rhetoric, and countless other examples, all led to yesterday.

“I support his policies but wish he would tweet less” is a poor excuse for power. What we say comes first from our heart:

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

—Luke 6:45

The words we speak have consequences, and five years of Trump’s words led to yesterday’s actions by his supporters. (Yes, his supporters, not antifa.)

Months of claiming “the election will be rigged” and weeks of claiming rampant election fraud in public while offering little to no evidence in courts—where it actually mattered—have resulted in “different truths” for those who support Trump and those who do not, and led directly to yesterday’s events.

His quest for power led to this. But it was encouraged and enabled by Republican and “conservative” support.

Growing up during the Clinton presidency, I often heard “character matters in our leaders” and more than ever, I believe that is true.

I was also taught that “the end does not justify the means,” that “it’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”

Yet during the past five years, “conservatives” and the church have demonstrated time and again that all too often, those were just words.

“But he’s better than the alternative” is pragmatism, pure and simple. “But the left is going to destroy our country” is a poor excuse for failing to stand for convictions.

Christian and “conservative” support for Trump has enabled and emboldened him, at the cost of losing all credibility because of these double standards.

Thank God for people like David French and Phil Vischer who are not afraid to stand for truth.

Character matters. It always has, and always will, and we cannot afford to ignore it in our leaders.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Cover of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Description

The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.

On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.

My Thoughts

This book is a fairly quick read (130 pages) with a lot of good reminders and lessons from the Twentieth Century.

I thought the first half was very good and the ending was good; the 50–80% range felt like he was stretching a bit to come up with an even 20.

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Highlights

Both fascism and communism were responses to globalization: to the real and perceived inequalities it created, and the apparent helplessness of the democracies in addressing them.

Page 12

You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.

Page 66

As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes.

The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.

The second mode is shamanistic incantation. As Klemperer noted, the fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.

The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction.

The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.”

Pages 66–8

A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency. Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety.

Page 100

A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best.

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves.

A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.

Page 114

History gives us the company of those who have done and suffered more than we have.

Page 125

Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation

Cover of Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation

This excellent book explores the reasons behind our current polarization, presents two believable scenarios where various states might secede from the Union, and offers suggestions on how to bring down the temperature of our civil discourse.

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Highlights

At the core of each narrative is the burning conviction that the other side doesn’t just want its opponents to lose political races, but rather wishes for them to exist in a state of permanent, dangerous (perhaps even deadly) subordination. And, really, if you’re steeped in your own side’s narrative, shouldn’t your opponent not just lose but also be cast down from American politics and culture?

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American civil society is retreating, and as American civil society retreats, politics surges to take its place.

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On Pluralism

America was built from the ground up to function as a pluralistic republic. It can flourish only as a pluralistic republic. …contrary to the beliefs of illiberal activists and intellectuals on the left and the right, America can exist only as a liberal, pluralistic republic. By “liberal,” I do not mean Democratic or progressive but rather the form of government that “conceive[s] humans as rights-bearing individuals who could fashion and pursue for themselves their own version of the good life.”

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to embrace pluralism is to surrender the dream of domination. To embrace pluralism is to acknowledge that even the quest for domination is dangerous. It understands that human beings will not yield that which is most precious to them, even at the point of a gun. Embracing pluralism means embracing the lessons of history and understanding that not even our great nation is immune to the forces that have fractured unions older than ours. Our nation’s angriest culture warriors need to know the cost of their conflict. As they seek to crush their political and cultural enemies, they may destroy the nation they seek to rule.

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To embrace pluralism, citizens truly need only to embrace two real limitations on their quest for ultimate ideological victory.

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First, if you are a citizen of a pluralistic, liberal republic, you need to defend the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself—even when others seek to use those rights to advance ideas you may dislike or even find repugnant.

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Second, if you are a citizen of a pluralistic, liberal government, you should defend the rights of communities and associations to govern themselves according to their values and their beliefs—so long as they don’t violate the fundamental rights of their dissenting members.

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Let’s start with the absolutely most basic building block of reconstructing a commitment to liberalism and pluralism. Let’s start with a term that conservatives have grown to hate and all too many progressives abuse and misunderstand. Let’s start with tolerance, properly understood.

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Americans must be tolerant of dissent, even when they believe dissenters are offensive and wrong.

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The political class exploits grace. The political class treats it as weakness. Thus, while parts of the public may long for mutual respect and a deescalation of partisan vitriol, even weary partisans don’t want to show weakness. The people who actually drive American politics and policy are committed to escalation, and as they escalate, they drive their committed followers into ever-greater frenzies.

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On Centralization and Federalism

American centralization is a response both to a terrible failure of federalism and to the dramatic external, existential threats of the Axis powers and the Soviet Union.

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In the case of America’s history of race discrimination, federalism enabled evil.

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Federalism has become a tactic, not a principle. It’s a defense mechanism when you’re out of power and an annoyance when you’re in power.

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On Our Attitudes Toward Others

Those who care the most often hate the most, and one of their chief methods of discrediting ideological allies with whom they compete is by portraying them as too tolerant of the hated political enemy. Kindness is perceived as weakness. Decency is treated as if it’s cowardice. Acts of grace are an unthinkable concession to evil.

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The next two qualities, mercy and humility, are indispensable to our national life. Mercy is the quality we display when we are, in fact, right and our opponents are wrong. We treat them not with contempt but with compassion.

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Humility reminds us that we are not perfect. Indeed, we are often wrong and will ourselves need mercy.

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The Space Trilogy

by C.S. Lewis

The Space Trilogy is a series of science fiction by C. S. Lewis. Written in the 1940–40s, the science feels a bit quaint compared to recent science fiction, but the allegories hold true.

Out of the Silent Planet

Cover of Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity.

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Perelandra

Cover of Perelandra

This was my favorite book of the series.

Perelandra continues the adventures of the extraordinary Dr. Ransom. Pitted against the most destructive of human weaknesses, temptation, the great man must battle evil on a new planet—Perelandra—when it is invaded by a dark force. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? Or will it throw off the yoke of corruption and achieve a spiritual perfection as yet unknown to man? The outcome of Dr. Ransom’s mighty struggle alone will determine the fate of this peace-loving planet.

Quotes

Ransom had been perceiving that the triple distinction of truth from myth and of both from fact was purely terrestrial—was part and parcel of that unhappy division between soul and body which resulted from the Fall. Even on Earth the sacraments existed as a permanent reminder that the division was neither wholesome nor final. The Incarnation had been the beginning of its disappearance.

—Page 177

There seems no plan because it is all plan: there seems no center because it is all center. Blessed be He!” “Yet this seeming also is the end and final cause for which He spreads out Time so long and Heaven so deep; lest if we never met the dark, and the road that leads no whither, and the question to which no answer is imaginable, we should have in our minds no likeness of the Abyss of the Father, into which if a creature drop down his thoughts for ever he shall hear no echo return to him. Blessed, blessed, blessed be He!”

—Page 277

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That Hideous Strength

Cover of That Hideous Strength

This book took me a little while to get into. It is so different from the first two books, at times I wondered if it’s actually even the same series. It’s definitely darker than the other two, likely because it was written right at the end of World War II.

In That Hideous Strength, the dark forces that have been repulsed in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra are massed for an assault on the planet Earth itself. Word is on the wind that the mighty wizard Merlin has come back to the land of the living after many centuries, holding the key to ultimate power for the force that can find him and bend him to its will. A sinister technocratic organization that is gaining force throughout England, N.I.C.E. (the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments), secretly controlled by humanity’s mortal enemies, plans to use Merlin in their plot to “recondition” society. Dr. Ransom forms a countervailing group, Logres, in opposition, and the two groups struggle to a climactic resolution that brings the Space Trilogy to a magnificent, crashing close.

Quotes

Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the NICE is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us—to refute the enemy slanders. Of course we’re nonpolitical. The real power always is.”

— Page 97

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles.

— Page 97

But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”

— Page 98

“There’s such a thing as loyalty,” said Jane. MacPhee, who had been carefully shutting up the snuffbox, suddenly looked up with a hundred covenanters in his eyes. “There is, Ma’am,” he said. “As you get older you will learn that it is a virtue too important to be lavished on individual personalities.”

— Page 190

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On Religion and Politics

“When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movement becomes headlong—faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thought of obstacles and forget that a precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.”

Frank Herbert in Dune, kindle location 7,089