Gunnar Myrdal belongs in a category with Alexis de Tocqueville and J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur--non-American authors who have written essential works on the American character. In 1954, the Swedish-born Myrdal delivered this massive (and massively influential) book on the status of American blacks. It is a somewhat depressing account of segregation and lynch law, but it is also full of optimism. Myrdal's hopefulness appears to have been justified. Black Americans still face many problems, but their place in American life has much improved, thanks to a near-complete revolution in racial attitudes among whites and a highly successful civil rights movement. If we learn about the present by reading about the past, then An American Dilemma
has much to teach us today, especially about how far the United States has come.
"One of the best political commentaries on American life that has ever been written."
-The American Political Science Review
"A novelty and a courage seldom found in American discussions either of our total society or of the part which the Negro plays in it."
-The American Sociological Review