“Toni Morrison’s parents migrated from Alabama to Lorraine, Ohio. Diana Ross’s mother migrated from Bessemer, Alabama to Detroit, her father from Bluefield, West Virginia. Aretha Franklin’s father migrated from Mississippi to Detroit. Jesse Owens’s parents migrated from Oakville, Alabama, to Cleveland when he was nine. Joe Louis’s mother migrated with him from Lafayette, Alabama to Detroit. Jackie Robinson’s family migrated from Cairo, Georgia, to Pasadena, California. Bill Cosby’s father migrated from Schuyler, Virginia to Philadelphia, where Cosby was born. Nat King Cole, as a young boy, migrated with his family from Montgomery, Alabama to Chicago. Condoleeza Rice’s family migrated from Birmingham, Alabama to Denver, Colorado, when she was twelve. Thelonious Monk’s parents brought him from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Harlem when he was five. Berry Gordy’s parents migrated from rural Georgia to Detroit, where Gordy was born. Oprah Winfrey’s mother migrated from Koscisusko, Mississippi, to Milwaukee, where Winfrey went to live as a young girl. Mae Jemison’s parents migrated from Decatur, Alabama, to Chicago when she was three years old. Romare Bearden’s parents carried him from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York City. Jimi Hendrix’s maternal grandparents migrated from Virginia to Seattle. Michael Jackson’s mother was taken as a toddler from Barbour County by her parents to East Chicago, Indiana; his father migrated as a young man from Fountain Hill, Arkansas, to Chicago, just west of Gary, Indiana, where all the Jackson children were born. Prince’s father migrated from Louisiana to Minneapolis. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’s grandmother migrated from Hollyhill, South Carolina, to Harlem. Whitney Houston’s grandparents migrated from Georgia to Newark, New Jersey. The family of Mary J. Blige migrated from Savannah, Georgia, to Yonkers, New York. Queen Latifah’s grandfather migrated from Birmingham, Alabama, to Brooklyn. August Wilson’s mother migrated from North Carolina to Pittsburgh, following her own mother, who, as the playwright told it, walked most of the way.”
Excerpted/Adapted from: Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. New York: Vintage, 2011.