Isabel Wilkerson

American journalist

Isabel Wilkerson (born 1961) is an American journalist and author. She was the first woman of African-American heritage to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

Isabel Wilkerson in 2011


  • My mission is about reminding us of how much we all have in common and that the experiences and history of people of african descent in this country is not ‘African American History,’ it’s American History. The experiences African Americans have had, for example in the Great Migration is similar to those that other people have had. It’s a way to bridge the gulf in how people see themselves compared to others – which is the source of all divisions – you don’t see yourself in someone else, you have no empathy for someone else whose experience is different from yours…
  • My parents absolutely did not think of themselves as part of the Great Migration. They knew they were part of a great wave. No one really talked about it in those terms or gave it a name. I grew up surrounded by people who were from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia -- all around me. My parents' friends were all from there. They socialized with people from there. They were quite ambitious and competitive among themselves, bragging about that they were going to put their child through Catholic school because that was going to give them a better chance at succeeding…
  • Some of these things seem as if it’s a lot of hard work, and it is. But it’s to an end—toward a richer, deeper understanding of a phenomenon that I was seeking to bring to life…The term narrative comes from Greek for the word knowing. And I think that that’s a powerful message because it means you cannot tell a story until you know the story.
    • On how she hopes The Warmth of Other Suns led to a deeper understanding in “Isabel Wilkerson” in Humanities (Fall 2016)

Quotes Isabel Wilkerson

  • On the one hand, Wilkerson is very concerned about dehumanizing any group because it is then easy to harm individuals within that group solely because of them belonging to it. But she needs to know that her work plays into the hands of those very forces that are dehumanizing Hindus. This is happening rapidly and turning Hindus into a defenseless people that do not deserve to be treated fairly because of allegations that they are predators and oppressors. She disapproves of people becoming slaves to group think and yet, group thinking against Hinduism is precisely what her work is causing. She is also against the use of oppression to assert control but does not address that the academic harassment of Hindus on campuses is actually a form of that very oppression.
    • Malhotra, R. & Viswanathan V. (2022). Snakes in the Ganga : Breaking India 2.0.
  • (I recommend over and over again:) The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I am far from the first to recommend this book but that is because it’s so extraordinary. A pure masterclass of narrative nonfiction that exists at the pinnacle of the genre. It is the book that a historical phenomenon as important as The Great Migration deserves.
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