Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
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Compelling history of an epic journey that changed America.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's a massive amount of historical information in Making Our Way Home, as it covers the period from the post-U.S. Civil War Reconstruction era through 1979. A lengthy glossary at the end of the book includes numerous people, events, and organizations that may be unfamiliar to readers. Two inserts feature a timeline of "Events From 1861-1900" and "The Black Panther Party Platform and Program." For readers wanting to learn more, there's a bibliography that includes links to numerous websites the author used in her research.

Positive Messages

Courage and tenacity can bring about great change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There's hardly a page without a positive role model. Some may be well known to readers (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., the Tuskegee Airmen, Thurgood Marshall), while they may be introduced to others (the Pullman porters who worked on America's railroads, teen Civil Rights activist Claudette Colvin, World War II hero Doris Miller, education advocate Mary McLeod Bethune) for the first time.


Violence (some graphically described) against Black Americans -- lynchings and the torture that often accompanied them, the Tulsa Massacre, the lynching of Emmett Till, the beatings and murders of Freedom Riders and civil rights workers -- is a thread that runs throughout the book.


The book introduces readers to LGBTQ activists who fought not just against racism but also homophobia. Playwright Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun) and author James Baldwin brought the Black experience into the American mainstream. Marsha P. Johnson worked in the 1970s to advance the LGBTQ rights movement. Openly gay civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin, was an architect of the March on Washington and an organizer of the Freedom Riders.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blair Imani's Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream chronicles the journey of millions of Black Americans who fled the violence and racism of the South in search of better lives and the impact that migration would have on the politics, economy, and culture of America. Beginning in the years just after the Civil War and ending in the 1970s, Imani uses the stories of Black activists, politicians, entrepreneurs, writers, and musicians to explore issues still relevant today -- voting rights, housing discrimination, segregated schools, LGBTQ rights, and domestic terrorism. Although rarely described in graphic detail, violence (lynchings, mob violence, bombings, beatings, and murder) is a constant throughout the story. With a lively text filled with graphic novel like illustrations, this a great book for students and parents to read together.


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What's the story?

MAKING OUR WAY HOME: THE GREAT MIGRATION AND THE BLACK AMERICAN DREAM is divided into seven chapters, each covering a span of years. "Separate But Equal (post-Civil War Reconstruction-1919)" begins with hope, as Black men are elected or appointed to local, state, and federal offices. But this hope is shattered by violence and the implementation of "separate but equal" policies. The first wave of migrants moving North in search of jobs begins in 1916, but they're met with racism, discrimination, and too often violence. "Beautiful -- And Ugly, Too" (1920-1929) details the Harlem Renaissance of Black writers, poets, and musicians that would help define a new chapter in Black identity and the massacre of Black citizens in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In "I, Too, Am America" (1930-1939), the Great Depression brings the first wave of immigration to a close and the New Deal, which promised help to Americans in need, offers little to Black Americans. "Liberty and Justice for All" (1940-1949) sees the second wave of immigration begin, as almost 5 million people leave the South and move to cities across America. The million Black men and women who served in the armed forces during World War II return from the war to find to racism, housing discrimination, and limited or no access to the GI Bill. "Trouble Ahead" (1950-1959) chronicles the beginning of the civil rights movement, the Supreme Court decision that found school segregation illegal, and Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bu. "The Time Is in the Street, You Know" (1960-1969) explores a decade of violence and social change that included Black Power, Black Is Beautiful, the Black Panthers, Motown, Freedom Riders, voter registration, Vietnam, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In the final chapter "All Power to All People" (1970-1979), the period of Black migration comes to an end, hip hop is born, Black enrollment in college soars, and Roots becomes one of the most watched shows in television history.

Is it any good?

This captivating story of perseverance and courage brings to life an epic journey that transformed forever the culture, politics, and demographics of America. The massive amount of information in Making Our Way Home might intimidate all but the most avid history student, but the captivating illustrations give an almost graphic novel feel to the book, something that should intrigue even readers reluctant to tackle six decades of history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream taught them about the violence and discrimination faced by Black Americans who began new lives in the North. How welcoming is your school or community to people from different ethnic or religious backgrounds? What do you think could be done to make them feel welcome?

  • Why do you think the author included hip hop and the music of Motown a history of Back migration? How can music bring people from different backgrounds together?

  • Has anyone in your family ever moved to a new town (or a new country) in order to have a better life? How did that move impact the life your family has today?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and civil rights stories

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