Isabel Wilkerson Ignites Conversation at 2023 Stern Lecture

Written by Joe Armstrong, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library

A packed Aronoff Center for the Arts was riveted by Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal recipient, and author of the New York Times bestseller "The Warmth of Other Suns" on Oct. 6 at the annual Mary S. Stern Lecture Series, opens a new window presented by the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library.

Reflecting on the Impact and Sacrifices of Generations

Wilkerson arrived as a familiar visitor to Cincinnati and began by recounting her time covering the Mapplethorpe Exhibit court cases for The New York Times. No stranger to documenting American history, she then recounted the lasting impact and consequences of the Great Migration. With her signature skill of uncovering firsthand testimony and narrative storytelling, Wilkerson examined her journey of "auditioning" over 1,200 participants of the Great Migration for her book and emphasizing the "power of individual decision" they made.

Throughout the evening Wilkerson invited attendees to place themselves in the context of the Great Migration, which saw an estimated six million Black people move from the American South to Northern, Midwestern, and Western states roughly 1910-1970. Wilkerson took a moment at the conclusion of the event, asking attendees to reflect on the sacrifices of both those who moved and those who remained. 

The Importance of Sharing Our History

Many attendees, as Wilkerson noted in her lecture, had not been aware of the Great Migration prior to reading "The Warmth of Other Suns." We asked some of those who attended this year's Mary S. Stern Lecture to share their thoughts about the Lecture Series and having the chance to hear from Isabel Wilkerson:

"For us, this was an opportunity of a lifetime. Isabel Wilkerson uncovered an untold part of American history - a part that needs to be known. This book is still so relevant after being published in 2010." Pamela, Paulette, and Ruth, visitors to the Deer Park Branch.

"Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns" is such a compelling book and we were so excited to attend." 

"Events like this give such a broadening experience to our community. I was excited to see Wilkerson specifically because she is so skilled at uncovering moments of history that were never taught to me."

"Being able to come here and see someone like Isabel Wilkerson is amazing! We use the library all the time and are so thankful to CHPL and The Library Foundation for making this event possible." Symmes Township Branch customers.

"This is our third year in a row attending the Mary S. Stern Lecture Series and it's awesome. For as little as $5 per ticket, I can bring our kids to hear amazing, different perspectives on important topics. We can't wait to come back next year!" Maggie and Gaven, repeat Stern Lecture Series attendees.

Continue the Conversation on October 7 

Join us for a Community Conversation on October 7 from 2-4 p.m. at the Price Hill Branch Library and explore what we learned from Isabel Wilkerson and her 2023 Mary S. Stern Lecture. Share your experiences and perspectives where your voice matters at this safe, inclusive event made possible in partnership with the YWCA Greater Cincinnati and co-sponsored by the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati. 

Community engagement and refreshments for this event are made possible through the support of Interact For Health

Registration is encouraged.

Register Online

The Mary S. Stern Lecture Series is possible through an endowment to The Library Foundation. Learn more about the annual Mary S. Stern lecture.