Dr. James Wright is a full-time assistant professor in San Diego at SDSU, teaching courses related to inequities in educational policy and leadership. He also released his memoir, “Heirs of the Great Migration: How the Past Became the Future,” last December, and it became the #1 Bestseller on Amazon. It is available in eBook and paperback. His success wasn’t easy, having overcome crime-riddled, impoverished communities and incarceration. Wright says, “My book chronicles aspects of my family’s migration from Jim Crow Era socio-politics in hopes of a better future for future generations. As part of their future generations, I speak about the realities we inherited in our ancestor’s hopeful new land.”
“Heirs of the Great Migration” is a narrative biography grounded on Wright’s family’s migration from Jim Crow-era sharecropping in North Carolina to manufacturing jobs in the industrial Northeast and told from the reference point and coming of age at the intersection of deindustrialization and the crack-cocaine epidemic (which sparked the 1994 Crime Bill and mass incarceration, e.g., The New Jim Crow). Caught in the dragnet of the Crime Bill at a young age and imprisoned, I am now a professor with an MBA and Ph.D., reflecting on overcoming historically rooted sociopolitical and socioeconomic structures, educational obstacles, and legal setbacks that mirror my ancestor’s pathways.
Wright is optimistic about the legacy he is leaving his three boys. An undervalued yet essential part of modern US history, the book helps amplify the Great Migration of Blacks from the US South, directly correlating with large populations of US Blacks across the US. Wright says, “Having overcome failed urban schools, divested communities, and prison to become a committed father of three young boys and able to speak with integrity to the various educational and societal inequities I faced as a professor of education is hopefully a new standard.”
“In this book Dr. Wright shares a powerful message about the importance of history for understanding not only our past, but also our present. While this story is rooted in his life experiences Waterbury, CT, the pattern of migration and disinvestment in Black communities he describes occurred in many cities across the country. His story of resilience is inspiring, but I was particularly taken with the rhythm, pace and use of language that communicates as sense of energy and urgency. I feel I learned about a personal history, a community history, and a national history. I also gained a new appreciation for an approach to language use and storytelling that was new to me, powerful, and that needs to be more present in publishing today.”
“Too often, we settle for quick and easy explanations of human behavior. We fail to acknowledge how the long arms of systemic racism, anti-blackness, and economic oppression hold back families, communities, and generations in ways that frustrate, negate, and even pervert individual and collective efforts. In “Heirs of the Great Migration: How the past became the future,” Professor Wright shares his story and his family’s story in a way that makes it difficult to ignore the larger truths that have plagued millions of Black families for hundreds of years.
Simultaneously, however, this brutally honest story does not condone despair. Throughout the book, the author describes how the power of faith, perseverance, and loving relationships influenced impressive outcomes against formidable odds. These triumphs neither excuse racism nor are they antitoxins for oppression. Nonetheless, Dr. Wright’s story calls upon us to see the beauty and brilliance in Black lives, to have faith in ourselves and in a power higher than ourselves, and to strive to lift up those we have the privilege and honor to support.