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Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class Paperback – December 22, 1999


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Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class + Black Bourgeoisie: The Book That Brought the Shock of Self-Revelation to Middle-Class Blacks in America + The Mis-Education of the Negro
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060984384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060984380
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Graham, an African-American attorney, went undercover as a busboy at an all-white Connecticut country club and wrote about the experience first in New York magazine and then in Member of the Club, his 1996 book of essays. Now, he switches his attention from the white to the black elite. Graham spent six years researching the history of the African-American upper crust and this book is both a thorough work of social history and a thoughtful appraisal of his own place in the black social hierarchy. Graham makes clear that the black elite has always been strongly shaped by the peculiarly intertwined American preoccupations with color and class, noting that, in the past, most members of the black elite felt they were "superior to other blacks?and to most whites." Stressing the importance of surrounding themselves with "like-minded people," the black elite enrolled their children in certain social clubs, which were training grounds for the social graces and created the foundation of a black old-boy network. Graham stops short of offering an apology for behavior that is hard to characterize as anything other than snobbish (he himself had a nose job when he was 26 so that he would have a less "Negroid" look). But he does bemoan a dwindling interest in tradition, and he suggests that it wasn't such a bad thing to grow up in the 1960s and '70s without the "sense of anger and dissatisfaction the rest of black America" expressed in those years. Graham has produced a book that casts an unblinking eye on America's black elite, cataloguing its achievements while critically analyzing its shortcomings. It is a must read for anyone interested in African-American history and the impact of ideas about social class on our society. 16 pages of photos. BOMC main selection; first serial to U.S. News and World Report; author tour. (Feb.) FYI: The ABC News program 20/20 is producing a television segment based on the book.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this work, Graham, who exposed bias against African Americans in his sharp-tongued account of working at an elite country club (Member of the Club, LJ 5/1/95), here focuses on "America's black upper class": a conservative, well-to-do group that dates back to the first black millionaires in the 1870s and whose members are associated with institutions like the Links and the Oak Bluffs area of Martha's Vineyard.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I read the book out of curiosity.
Nancy
This is a complicated book about the always complicated subject of race in America, by a very complicated author.
Herbert L Calhoun
We need to accept it as just one of many indications that we are just as human as everyone else.
Hugh Pearson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 97 people found the following review helpful By P. Fuller on August 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I must admit that I read this book prior to attending graduate school at Yale University. One of the sole reasons I picked up this read was because I had not grown up being spoon fed with silver, but rather I wanted to become more acquainted with those I knew I would be coming across attending an Ivy League school such as this. I echo sentiments that this book had to be eaten in small portions because of its repetitiveness and my general amazment and reaffirmation of the bias that goes on within my own Black community. Yet, I feel the book sufficiently prepared me for those Jack and Jillers (and everything else inbetween) I have since met and the history behind the Black elite in general.

It is wonderful to know that the Black elite existed and still exists to this day. Nevertheless, the absence of respect portrayed within this book from elite Blacks to one another and to those of less fortune is sad and disappointing. No individual regardless of race, class, or creed should be treated in this manner. For those who have read or are considering reading this book, do so with an open mind and take care not to become disenchanted by the words on the page. I have used this literature as an opportunity to appreciate my own upbringing from parents who simply told me to work hard and your efforts will pay off. For me, this world and its simple pleasures are nothing compared to the eternal one that awaits us all.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I resisted reading this book because of all the controversy and hype that it attracted. When I saw it on the L.A. Times bestseller list and the N.Y. Times list, and then in my Book of the Month club magazine, I figured it was a book for white people to learn about wealthy blacks. After seeing it on Essence's September bestseller list, I broke down and read it. I've lived many of the experiences that are in this book--the Martha's Vineyard crowd, Howard U. relatives, debutante cotillions, Jack & Jill parties--and the stuff is true. We may not want to hear it, but this book is chock full of dates and history about when and why these groups got started. We hear all this information about whites in other social history books. Why is it so controversial when we learn about the truth behind wealthy blacks? Yeah, it's gossipy and showy, but there are lots of interviews and stories about incredible black politicians, entrepreneurs, physicians, attorneys, college presidents and others whom we should be proud to know about. Just because the author isn't profiling Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Puff Daddy, doesn't mean we should all slam the book. Black success includes more than athletes and celebrities. Why is everybody so afraid of it? The pictures of famous families and data on the colleges and our fraternities, alone, made Our Kind of People an important social history. I didn't like a lot of the snobbery of some of the people, but the experiences and information they shared gave me an insight to a segment of black America that we never hear about.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Changed Mind on February 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
After watching a rerun of BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley last night, I felt that I had to respond to the negative comments made against this book.
I did not want to read this book because I was convinced that it fed into the negativity of colorism that is still pervasive in our community. In the book, Graham does constantly talk about the right skin complexion, the right pedigree, the right religion and the right education. After a while, I must admit, it did get tiresome. That is besides the point. I think that this publication provides a good starting point for the discussion of CLASS in the African American community . I am truly sadden that we do not always celebrate individuals who achieved in the face of societal racism. You have be an athlete or a performer to have money. We have glamourized the ghetto and "street niggers". The struggling single black mother and the absent black father have become the most pervasive image we have of the black family. We automatically assume that if a black person does well without programs like affirmative action (like these individuals did) they do so at the expense of other blacks.
This book should be encouraged reading not because it is particularly well written (I don't think it is) or because infiltrating this world would be ideal (it would not be). This book adds to the complete history of African Americans.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was hilarious! It reads like something written 100 years ago. As a Berkeley,California raised Black woman, I find these views of "class" and skin tone bizarre at best and totally pathetic all around. This reminds me of a story about a club called the Blue Vein Society that members of my family were asked to join in the 50's. The entry requirements? You had to be light enough to see the veins in your arms! I'm not making this up, it was an actual organization! I thought attitudes like the ones expressed in Mr. Graham's book were as extinct as that dumb club.
I'm very fair-skinned with green eyes and long hair, and I'm what is fondly known of as a BAP (Black American Princess), because my parents provided a wonderful childhood for me. However, this did not include Jack and Jill, the Links, etc., because we laughed at pretentious people that joined these organizations. I socialized with people of all nationalities and hues (this is Berkeley, after all). At no point in my life have I ever feel better than any other Black person simply because I'm light. Why? Anyone with a modicum of common sense would never judge another simply by looks possessions, or background. That excludes people with Mr. Graham's warped perspective, of course. "Our kind of people," indeed! Not mine - I'm ashamed to know there are still African-Americans with slave mentalities running around spreading their prejudiced views.
I'm sure Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Diana Ross, etc., weep into their pillows every night because they're not accepted by the "Old Guard." Hah!
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