Reading about this project this morning, I kept thinking that it had previously been announced, but with a different set of people involved in its making. But a search of the S&A archives revealed nothing, so I must be mistaken. Or it could be that there’s another project on the subject that’s in the works, that I’m confusing this one with.
All that said… Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers (via their Shondaland production shingle) have teamed up with Dee Rees for an event TV series adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which has been picked up by the FX network (Wilkerson was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism).
Wilkerson’s tome chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black Americans, fleeing the South, for northern and western cities, in search of better lives – a mass exodus that took place between 1915 and 1970, as the actions of almost 6 million people changed the face of America.
Wilkerson’s extensive research included interviews of more than a thousand people, and unprecedented access to new data and official records, in an effort to write what has been deemed by critics and scholars as the definitive (and dramatic) account of how the migration unfolded, altering our cities, and the country overall.
Here’s a write-up from Amazon: “With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, ‘The Warmth of Other Suns’ is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.”
Dee Rees (whose Bessie Smith biopic is set to debut on HBO later this month) will script the adaptation of Wilkerson’s book, although no word on whether she’ll direct as well (I would assume so). Rhimes and Beers will executive produce the limited series, which will mark Shondaland’s first cable TV endeavor.
This also marks another “black history” (broadly speaking) TV entry, following projects announced at other networks, on the Underground Railroad (there are at least 2 of them), and there’s also the remake of “Roots,” to name just a couple.
Glad to see Dee Rees land another high-profile project so soon after “Bessie.”
You can pick up a copy of “The Warmth of Other Suns” here.