The landmark novels The Warmth of Other Suns, published in 2010, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, forthcoming in 2020, are written by American writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson.
She maintains the distinction of being the first African-American woman to win the journalism Pulitzer Prize.
Wilkerson’s background in journalism includes serving as the editor-in-chief of the Howard University student newspaper, interning for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and heading up The New York Times’ bureau in Chicago.
She has also held teaching positions at esteemed institutions like Emory, Princeton, Northwestern, and Boston University.
In her textbook The Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson chronicled the experiences of African Americans who immigrated to northern and western cities during the 20th century through in-depth research and interviews with more than a thousand people.
The racial caste structure in the United States is examined in her book Caste. Both works achieved bestseller status.
Isabel Wilkerson’s Bio
The Great Migration brought her parents from Virginia, and Isabel Wilkerson was born there in 1961.
During World War II, her father served as a Tuskegee Airman. Wilkerson majored in journalism after being accepted to Howard University and was appointed editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Hilltop.
The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times were the only two magazines where she interned.
Isabel Wilkerson’s Career
While working as the Chicago Bureau Chief for The New York Times in 1994, Isabel Wilkerson made history by being the first woman of African-American origin to receive the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
She was recognized for her coverage of the 1993 Midwest floods and a profile of a 10-year-old child who looked after his four siblings when she won the feature writing prize.
The Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories: America’s Best Writing, 1979–2003, edited by David Garlock, contains articles written by Wilkerson.
The James M. Cox Professor of Journalism at the University of Emory, the Ferris Instructor of Journalism at Princeton University, the Kreeger-Wolf endowed teacher at Northwestern University, the instructor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at University’s College Boston of Communication, and others have all been held by Wilkerson.
She served on the Columbia University National Arts in Journalism Program board.
Isabel Wilkerson Fifteen Years To Research
It took Isabel Wilkerson fifteen years to research and write The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, which was released in 2010.
Through the personal accounts of those who traveled those routes, the book traces the three common routes taken by African Americans fleeing the southern states between 1915 and the 1970s.
Wilkerson conducted over 1,000 in-depth interviews with migrants to northern and western cities as part of her research.
The book gained widespread praise from critics and became an instant bestseller, landing at number 5 on the nonfiction section of the New York Times bestseller list.
The book received numerous honors, including the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Sidney Hillman Book Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Additionally, it came in second place for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
In a 2010 NYT interview, Wilkerson revealed that she is among several African Americans who have chosen to relocate back to the South after living in the North for several generations.
Her 2020 book Caste makes the case that the American racial hierarchy might be viewed as a caste system comparable to that in India and Nazi Germany.
The New York Times called the textbook an “instant American classic,” and it has garnered many favorable reviews.
It also topped The New York Times’ list of best-selling nonfiction books, making it a bestseller. Ava DuVernay will produce, direct, and write the movie adaptation of the book, according to a Netflix announcement in October 2020.