Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins



Wandering in Strange Lands documents Morgan’s mission to define her family’s legacy and how this mission has taught her about the lost history of many black communities.


The extent of Morgan’s cultural background remained a mystery to her for many years until she finally decided to learn more about her identity for herself. During the Great Migration, Morgan’s ancestors escaped the south and dispersed into parts of the northeast and California.


The spirit of their legacies (and many black families’) became lost in their migration to the north. This migration made it challenging for future generations to learn about their true identity and background. Now, Morgan has set out to solve the mystery.


And this mystery to find the truth of her family’s legacy lands her in Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles. In Georgia and South Carolina, Morgan learns about the Gullah Geechee people--who are the earliest descendants of West Africans.


Exploring the Gullah lands, Morgan learns about the history of land loss for Black people in the south and how this threatened their displacement within the Lowcountry. The Gullah Geechee people are prideful, working their hardest to preserve the culture of their ancestors.



In Louisiana, Morgan’s misconceptions about Creole people are put to the test as she learns about their culture’s uniqueness. Up until her trip to Louisiana, Morgan often regarded Creole people as uppity black folks who didn’t want to be called black. Though, this misconception is widely held by many black people.


Morgan discovers that these misconceptions about Creole people’s blackness are divisive. They also shame Creole people for preserving their cultural history. Throughout Wandering in Strange Lands, Morgan’s research allows her to test false presumptions like these and uncover black culture’s transformative truths.


Wandering in Strange Lands is packed with the cultural critique of an ethnological study. Yet, it also includes the personal life reflections that are consistent with a memoir. Morgan does not write Wandering in Strange Lands for herself; rather, for all black people to learn more about the roots of their blackness.


Morgan’s findings give black readers something to be proud of as Wandering in Strange Lands depicts the beauty of black people’s legacy. Her bravery to travel to lands she had never been to--all in the name of discovery--is commendable.


Wandering in Strange Lands is a selfless service for the black community that teaches others about the people, places, and events that make them unique. Morgan’s research amplifies the voices within the Lowcountry and beyond and teaches readers that journeying to the past is a way to understand everything we know now.


Themes:

Identity; cultural identity; culture; identity; explore; black history; past; present; legacy; ancestry; journey; the great migration; critic; discover; history; ethnology; memoir; Louisiana; South Carolina; North Carolina; slavery; Oklahoma; California; new jersey


Memorable Quotes:


“No one spoke about the past—the goal was to move forward and never look back.”


“I followed black people across state lines and rivers throughout the United States with nothing more than a notebook, recorder, and a wild curiosity for the stories that echo and reverberate within our borders.”


“We migrate because we want something better. We migrate because we have no other choice. But no matter where we go, we’re victims of segregation, redlining, and racial discrimination.”


“I didn’t know the full weight of being black until I was compared to an animal as a preteen….In the larger sense, [blackness] was not the reflection of my beautiful family but rather the constant reminder of being misunderstood...I have spent my career trying to tease out the interwoven threads of who I am as a black woman.”


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