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Acting Black: College, Identity and the Performance of Race Paperback – February 6, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0415944106 ISBN-10: 0415944104

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Editorial Reviews


Sarah Willie analyzes the array of experiences that constitute what it means to be Black for African American students. She challenges fixed notions of race, showing how Black students negotiate complex racial identities in the different contexts of historically Black colleges and predominantly white institutions. This important book shows that providing equitable education for Black students is more than a matter of numerical representation. Professor Willie's book should be required reading for college administrators and faculty.
–Margaret L. Andersen, author of Thinking About Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender

A bold, original analysis demonstrating the crucibles of identity creation faced by Black students at historically Black and historically white colleges and universities.
–Joe Feagin, co-author of The Agony of Education: Black Students at White Colleges and Universities

Sarah Willie has given us a work of great insight and unshakable commitment to racial justice. This book will be indispensable for every teacher and every student concerned with race on campus, and indeed, with race in American society. A must-have, must-read, must-teach work.
–Howard Winant, author of The World is a Ghetto: The Making of a New World Racial Order

To what degree is race a malleable, contingent, and performable social identity? Does formal equality coexist with informal inequality, and if so, with what consequences? Are Black colleges the answer? If you, like me, have ever wondered about any of these questions, you must read this fascinating book that raises and addresses such issues.
–Caroline Hodges Persell, co-author of Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools

About the Author

Sarah Susanna Willie is Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Black Studies Program at Swarthmore College. The author of several essays on multiracial identity, her work has appeared in The Black Scholar, Contemporary Sociology, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415944104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415944106
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Mingo on December 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Leave the dichotomies behind! Too many people think that there are only two college types: small liberal arts colleges and huge state universities. The author emphasizes that Black students can feel very comfortable at mid-sized schools. She hypothesizes that Black Northwestern alums would feel like she did about her tiny alma mater. That was not the case. Schools where Blacks make up a "critical mass," as she says, are comfortable environments even if Blacks don't make up a large percentage of the student body. I was soooooo feeling that! My parents almost refused to allow me to go to a prestigious mid-sized school because my oldest sister had a bad time at a tiny school. For all Black teens whose parents assume they can only thrive at huge state schools, please hand this book to your parents and memorized those terms: "mid-sized" and "critical mass"!

This book's title may also be deceptive. Among educators, "acting black" is a term to describe African-American students' actions which have an oppositional stance toward schools. Whether at Northwestern or Howard, none of the alums said they refused to study or skipped classes in order to prove they were Black.

This book really compares what Howard and Northwestern Black alums say about racial matters as they intersected with their college choices, college experiences, and life after graduation. Now I'm thinking of the Black female character on "Daria" who wanted to attend a Black college though her parents, Black college alums, wanted the opposite. I imagine that many talented students, especially in the Chicagoland area, face the tough choice between Howard or Northwestern. This book may be informative for many in that situation.

After the chapter "The Ebony Tower," this book got dull to me.
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By Mary Sue Willie on July 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gleaned from interviews with graduates of color who attended predominantly black colleges and predominantly white colleges. This book analyzes the experiences of people who attended both types of higher education and the effect on their contacts and careers.
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