Last week, at the invitation of Dr. Jessie Fields, I paid a visit to her medical practise, the St. Luke’s Medical Group on Frederick Douglas Boulevard and 147th Street in Harlem. I came to take some photos and meet several of her patients who participated in the Great Migration.
Jessie has been having conversations with several of her patients who came north during the Great Migration. I was honored to meet this group of Americans who left the devastating racism of the deep south, and took the risk to move to Harlem. Wilmont McFadden (far L) came to Harlem when he was 20. He came by bus from Florence, SC. His family were sharecroppers. Fletcher Baldwin was born in 1936. His mother was a housekeeper and he grew up picking cotton, which he hated. He came to Harlem when he was fifteen after stops in DC and PA. He has never been back. Wilhemina Middleton can to NYC on a Greyhound bus when she was 16. She also grew up in rural South Carolina and learned to pick cotton, which she enjoyed. She has deep ties to SC, her mother remained there until her death five years ago. We celebrated Wilhemina Middleton’s 71st birthday with a little cake. Wilhemina and Fletcher talked some about growing up in SC, picking cotton, the slowness of life and the move North. Wilhemina’s daughter, Annette talked about how she did not think she would have been able to survive what her mother and Mr. Bladwin went through. Wilhemina said in her quiet voice, “oh, you would have been alright.”
It was a pleasure to spend some time with Dr. Fields, Mr. Baldwin, Ms. Middleton, Mr. McFadden and Annette Middleton. We talked a bit about the book, Dr. Fields gave everyone a copy. It was also wonderful to see how much they appreciate and care for their doctor, Jessie Fields. Dr. Fields now keeps copies of The Warmth of Other Suns in her office to share with her patients, who have been delighted to learn about the book. The book opens many new conversations about their experiences. I hope they will be able to join our conversation with Isabel Wilkerson just one week from today. Our conference call with Isabel Wilkerson is on Sunday, July 13th at 7 pm. The call in number is (805) 399-1200 and the passcode is 767775#.