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Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. Hardcover – May 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671768468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671768461
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Elected mayor of Washington, D.C., in 1978, sharecropper's son Marion Barry Jr., a leading civil rights activist, began a descent into cocaine and alcohol addiction and demagoguery that mirrored the racially polarized city's decline. Jaffe, an editor of Washingtonian magazine, and WRC-TV political reporter Sherwood suggest that nearly two centuries of congressional domination of the capital, disenfranchisement and white racism have stunted local political traditions in Washington, creating a vacuum filled by power broker Barry. They blame the former mayor (sentenced in 1990 to six months in jail after a drug bust) for whipping up racial animosity, setting whites against blacks and scuttling a prime opportunity for advancing racial harmony. Their chronicle of the dream city turned urban nightmare sweeps from the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968, and the real estate boom and crack epidemic of the 1980s to the beleaguered administration of Barry's successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Journalists Jaffe and Sherwood, long-time Washington, D.C., residents, have covered that city's politics for many years. Their book is based on interviews with over 200 people (but not former mayor Marion Barry) and a variety of other sources, including congressional hearings and reports, police and court records, and journalistic accounts. While the book traces the history of the city from the Civil War to the present, its central reference point is the 1992 murder of Tom Barnes, a young intern for Alabama senator Richard Shelby, a few blocks from the Capitol and the racial turmoil that arose when the senator questioned the ability of the largely African American government to run the city. Tracing former mayor Barry's career from his civil rights activism to his drug conviction, the authors provide a highly unflattering portrait of his weaknesses for sex, drugs, and political corruption. For them, Barry symbolizes both the tension between civil rights activists and Washington's African American middle class and the promise and subsequent failure of the social programs of the 1960s. Of interest to scholars of civil rights history, urban history, and political science; recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
William Waugh Jr., Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Well written and worth the time.
Marina Streznewski
That said, if you love DC or are serious about wanting to understand its political backstory, you have to read this book.
ZetteZelle
Copies are hard to find and I really think the publishers should reprint this book!
A. Richardson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating book about the current state and recent history of our nation's capital focuses largely on the story of Marion Barry, who was, when the book was written, both a once and future mayor of the city. How much blame Barry must shoulder for the city's social and economic problems is a question that remains to be answered, but the detail provided by the authors, both journalists with long experience of the city and its politics, offers fascinating glimpses into the reality behind the mask. One story alone is worth the price of the book: Marion Barry, who has long tried to identify with the city's most downtrodden, at one time (when he first went into politics) hired an exconvict to teach him how to 'talk street' so that he wouldn't sound too educated (he has an M.S. in Chemistry and was working on a Ph. D. when he became involved in the civil rights movement - not the Marion Barry I thought I knew).
This is a fascinating book. A bit out of date now, but containing material I have not seen anywhere else that helps explain some of the very bad times D.C. has experienced in the last few decades.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Hogan on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jaffe does an excellent job of recounting the hope and promise that many Washingtonians held when Marion Barry was first elected Mayor as part of an grassroots coalition of low-income blacks, liberal whites and a growing gay and lesbian community and how badly that promise was betrayed.

There is no doubt the 80's were an awful time for DC. Crack, violence and economic abandonment by the middle class, nearly killed DC. Most major urban centers faced similar problems thanks to Reaganism and white flight but Jaffe clearly documents Barry's compounding of the problems faced by DC through financial irresponsibility(largely due to patronage) incompetent and criminal staff and his growing personal addictions to drug and sex. He documents Barry's failings without demonizing him or resorting to the disguised racism of many of Barry's detractors.

It should be added that Barry was recently elected back onto City Council, representing the nearly all black and poverty stricken Ward 8. Many outside DC couldn't believe that DC residents would want this guy back on the City Council, but those folks don't know Ward 8 or Barry's appeal. While DC is booming economically, Ward 8 continued to be ignored by the rest of the city and the Mayor. By voting for Barry against a Mayoral ally, Ward 8 was warning the rest of the city that they will not be ignored.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Redding on June 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent book. But the publisher must have stuck the print version through some sort of scanner with OCR to turn it into an e-book. Almost every page has typos, often humorous. There are random punctuations, spaces, h's come out as b's, e's are o's, etc. After a while you get use to it, but then you get angry because you suspect the publisher is making money off your purchase and they were too lazy and cheap to proof-read it. The new updated epilogue (written in 2014) is understandably free of mistakes.

I complained to Amazon and they refunded some of the money, along with a non-committal assurance that they would send me a corrected version at some point in the future. Pretty lame. It definitely makes me think twice about buying older e-books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George on February 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The urban problems of Washington D.C. are laid bare with some wonderful historical perspective. This is a city where the normal municipal politics (race, poverty, patronage) are complicated by the national politics that weild a veto power over this city.

This book easily could have been an unreadable tome, but the authors did a great job of keeping the book moving and putting the charachters in proper perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ZetteZelle on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has a copyright date of 1994, and as someone who moved to the District just after it was published, there were many moments of disconnect when the authors described a version of the city that I moved to that is nothing like the place where I live today. That said, if you love DC or are serious about wanting to understand its political backstory, you have to read this book. When this was published, 14th St was littered with buildings destroyed during or after the 68 riots; they're all razed now, but those 45-year-old ghosts haunt the City Council and and ANCs, and probably will for decades more to come.

This is an Important Book, but it's also a very engaging, readable book. You know how the story of young Marion Barry ends, but it's still fascinating to watch each step of his journey of reinvention and rise to power.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Dream City" compares with Mike Royko's "Boss" as an excellent expose on urban politics. But while Royko's protagonist, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, at least had his city's best interests in mind despite the shortcomings of his political machine, Marion Barry only cared about one thing, Marion Barry. That this vulture perpetuated his own power on the backs of the powerless who were his strongest supporters is sickening and fascinating at the same time. "Dream City" was published in 1994, right before the leech Barry returned to the Mayor's office to do four more years of damage to the capital city. Under Daley, Chicago was "The City That Works." Under Barry, DC was the city that didn't.
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