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Students continue to examine the Great Migration, the massive relocation that cause more than six million African-Americans to move out of the South between 1915 and 1970, in The Warmth of Other Suns.
Between 1915 and 1970 more than six million African-Americans moved out of the South to cities across the Northeast, Midwest, and West. This relocation—called the Great Migration—resulted in major demographic shifts across the United States. Many history teachers teach about migration to Ellis Island but few focus on this massive flight of six million blacks who left their homeland looking for a better life in the northern part of the United States.
In this unit, students explore the circumstances in which individuals in the Great Migration made decisions about picking up and moving to foreign cities in the North. As students read The Warmth of Other Suns, they consider the historical context of their previous unit Fences in order to better empathize with the complicated protagonist Troy Maxson and the decisions he made in his life as an emigrant from the South. Students will also examine the power of storytelling through different genres such as literary nonfiction (Warmth of Other Suns), drama (Fences), poetry (poems by Richard Wright and Langston Hughes), song (Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”) and other visual media (mostly photography and painting). In doing so, they compare the structure of each text and analyze how each medium conveys the idea of migration and its impact on an individual. Importantly, teachers will notice that this unit references both literature and informational standards as the genre literary nonfiction is a type of prose that draws on literary techniques associated with fiction to report on real persons, places, and events in the world. The Warmth of Other Suns, therefore, requires both sets of standards to better access the text.
It is important to note for teachers that there is no test with multiple choice questions at the end of this unit. The assessment at the end of the unit is a two-day writing project as explained in lesson 8.
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Book: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (First Vintage Books Edition, 2011)
Visual: One-Way Ticket by Langston Hughes
Resource: Images of the Great Migration
Article: “Chicago’s Great Migration: Blacks Leaving Historic Neighborhoods To Return South” by Trymaine Lee (HuffingtonPost.com)
Video: “Isabel Wilkerson: 2011 Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction” by Chicago Humanities Festival (YouTube)
Video: “Bessie Smith: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” by MiM Musicians in Mourning (YouTube) ((2015))
Students will continue to work on dissecting the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp what it is asking before starting their outlining and drafting pages. They will focus on fully answering the prompt with a clear thesis statement and then two or three reasons that support that thesis. They will also work on varying their transitions in order to enhance the flow of an entire compare-and-contrast essay. Importantly, students will work on providing accurate evidence to support their claims and analyzing the diction in that evidence so that they are connecting it back to the thesis of the essay.
W.1b, d (elaboration)
allusion, literary nonfiction
dole (p. 3), undue (p. 4), consign (p. 7), sentimentality (p.7, root: SENT-), resentment (p. 7), caste system (pp. 7, 8), sheer (p. 9), alien (p. 9 and Wright poem), configuration (p. 10), discontent (p. 11), migrant (p. 11 [also teach immigrant, emigrant, migration]), verifiable (p. 13), distortion (p. 14), phenomenon (p. 14), untenable (p. 14), eternal (p. 20), austere (p. 21), attribute (p. 21), unwittingly (p. 21), tendency (p. 21), consume (p. 26) demographics (p. 2, “Chicago’s Great Migration”)
TWOOS pp. 5 – 6 — “One-Way Ticket”
Analyze a Richard Wright poem for theme and tone.
Explain why the author alludes to a specific line in a Richard Wright poem.
TWOOS pp. 6 – 11
Great Migration images
Make inferences based on photographs and graphics of the Great Migration.
Closely read a passage for central idea, motivation, author’s purpose (intent), and extended metaphor.
TWOOS pp. 11 – 15
Explain the prominent theme in the text.
Make thematic connections between The Warmth of Other Suns and Fences.
TWOOS — pp. 3-4; 19-23
Analyze the author’s deliberate juxtaposition and how it impacts the reader.
TWOOS pp. 8 – 15
“Chicago's Great Migration”
Reread an excerpt of an introduction to identify prominent themes to trace throughout the text.
Read an article about reverse migration and identify, using evidence from The Warmth of Other Sons, what would motivate people to participate in a reverse migration.
Identify author's purpose from an interview.
Compare and contrast how the different structures of texts by August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Isabel Wilkerson and Bessie Smith, contribute to their portrayals of the African American experience.
TWOOS pp. 22 – 27
Use direct evidence in a literary discussion about the meaning of specific quotes in Wilkerson’s introduction.
Compare the Great Migration to another piece of literature or an era in history.
Evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of each medium (poetry, drama, literary nonfiction in addressing the idea of migration and its impact on an individual’s life.
Complete and submit their end-of-unit assessment.