The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns

by

Isabel Wilkerson

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Photographs Symbol Analysis

Photographs Symbol Icon

Photographs—and particularly Wilkerson’s old photo of her mother—represent history’s power to enrich the present. When they reach the North, Wilkerson explains, migrants generally have their photos taken. It’s like a routine of welcoming them to their new homes. When Wilkerson finds the photo that her mother originally took when she reached Washington, D.C. from Georgia in the 1950s, she begins wondering about her parents’ experiences during the Great Migration, and she starts investigating why so many migrants choose not to share their stories with their children and grandchildren. Most of all, she wonders how her life—and the U.S. as a whole—would look today if the Great Migration had never happened. Just like the photos that Ida Mae, Robert, and George show her when they recount their stories, the photo of Wilkerson’s mother reveals the stakes of understanding history and the power of individual decisions, in aggregate, to shape the world forever.

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Photographs Symbol Timeline in The Warmth of Other Suns

The timeline below shows where the symbol Photographs appears in The Warmth of Other Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One: The Great Migration, 1915–1970
Migration and Freedom Theme Icon
History, Memory, and Identity Theme Icon
The Legacy of the Migration Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Decision, Consequence, and Regret Theme Icon
...north to Washington, D.C., where she sleeps on a distant cousin’s sofa and gets her photo taken. This woman is Isabel Wilkerson’s mother, and years later, Wilkerson finds this first photo.... (full context)
Part Four: The Fullness of the Migration
Migration and Freedom Theme Icon
Decision, Consequence, and Regret Theme Icon
...Los Angeles Sentinel runs an article calling it “The Party of the Year,” and Robert’s photo album from it is among his most prized possessions. After it’s over, he makes sure... (full context)
Part Five: More North and West Than South
Migration and Freedom Theme Icon
History, Memory, and Identity Theme Icon
The Legacy of the Migration Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...to plan for. In fact, in 1977, the supermarket chain Jewel Food Stores does a photo shoot of Ida Mae’s family to represent “the typical Chicago family at Thanksgiving.” Jewel runs... (full context)
Part Five: Redemption
History, Memory, and Identity Theme Icon
The Legacy of the Migration Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
2. Harlem, 1996. George Starling’s basement apartment is full of photos, old documents, and funeral programs. He speaks clearly and carefully, giving Wilkerson all the detail... (full context)
Part Five: And, Perhaps, to Bloom
Migration and Freedom Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Decision, Consequence, and Regret Theme Icon
One day, Ida Mae shows Wilkerson photos of her nephew’s funeral. Her nephew’s partner was so distraught that he wanted to get... (full context)