Behind the Title

The title of Isabel Wilkerson’s book comes from a passage written by Richard Wright in 1945.  The first page of The Warmth of Other Suns contains the following lines from Black Boy by Richard Wright:


Richard Wright

“I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown . . .

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom”

― Richard Wright

Powerful poetic and prophetic words that so capture the promise and terror of the move from the South to the North.  Isabel has written about how the title of the book was ultimately selected in an interview on her website.  These lines were written by Richard Wright as part of Black Boy, his autobiography published by the Book of the Month Club.  Originally, the book covered both his childhood in Mississippi and his move to Chicago. The Book of the Month Club asked him to eliminate the Chicago section of the book.  He agreed to do that and had to write an alternative ending.  Isabel writes in the interview, “As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to excavate it. I felt it was poetry, beautifully rendered but invisible, buried as it was in the footnotes.”
Hope you are enjoying reading The Warmth of Other Suns.  I would love to hear your thoughts, favorite sections, things you are experiencing and thinking about as you read.  Shoot me an email at or leave a comment below.
Our conversation with Isabel Wilkerson will be on
Sunday, July 13th at 7 pm. 

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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