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The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia Paperback – February 22, 2012

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The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia + Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry + Race, Rock, and Elvis (Music in American Life)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520272080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520272088
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 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: #541,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Reveals a hidden history of racial segregation on the United States' first television program centered on the teenage population. . . . Provocative.”
(Orange County Register 2012-02-28)

“Well-researched, tightly-written. . . . Impressively bright, clear, and comprehensive.”
(History News Network 2012-06-05)

“Excellent. . . . Offers a valuable understanding of the . . . melding of African Americans into the national youth culture.”
(Choice 2012-09-01)

“The study illustrates how . . . nostalgic representations of the past . . . can work as impediments to progress in the present.”
(Cbq Communication Booknotes Qtly 2012-10-05)

“The Nicest Kids in Town counters the (false) mythology of American Bandstand with valuable descriptions of ‘forgotten’ cultural productions.”
(Gayle Wald, George Washington University Jrnl Of The Society For American Music (Jsam) 2012-11-01)

From the Inside Flap

“By challenging Dick Clark’s claim that he helped integrate American popular music and culture, Matthew Delmont puts the lie to Clark’s air-brushed history of American Bandstand’s role in racial desegregation. The Nicest Kids in Town shows how the nexus of sound, place, race, and space operated together to create and reinforce a myth of national memory and belonging. Just as importantly, this compelling cultural history demonstrates the importance of the youth market as a theater of struggle where brave young men and women—outraged by the discrimination and racism they faced for the simple act of enjoying music—refused to have their bodies, tastes, or desires policed. Delmont shows how the music moved them, and how in turn they moved the music onto television screens across America.”—Herman Gray, author of Cultural Moves.

The Nicest Kids in Town speaks simultaneously to several significant current lines of inquiry among historians of the United States after World War II. Delmont takes on issues that we thought we already knew completely—the social and cultural history of the 1950s and ‘60s, the Civil Rights movement, the birth of television—but he brings original material to his story and connects these issues in new ways. Delmont’s work proves him to be a talented, careful, and thorough scholar, and in a large body of work on these topics, his book stands alone.”—Jay Mechling, author of On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth.

More About the Author

My mom was a huge fan of American Bandstand when she was growing up and her memories of the program are what got me started with this book project. I initially believed, as Dick Clark has claimed, that American Bandstand, was fully integrated in the 1950s, but my research turned up new evidence that led me to tell a different story. I try to convey this sense that history can be surprising to my students at Arizona State University, where I am an Associate Professor of History. While I grew up in Minneapolis, I fell in love with Philadelphia while writing this book.

If you have memories of American Bandstand that you would like to share, or questions about my book, I'd love to hear from you. You can e-mail me at matthew.delmont[at]

To learn more about the author, please visit:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By atibamanii on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
I absolutely recommend this book to all Americans! Especially since the recent passing of Dick Clark.

Mr. Delmont reminds us of two important things about the U.S. in the 1950s & 1960s that still resonate in 2012. 1) American Bandstand was an American commercial enterprise that was not in the forefront of segregation, and 2) American Bandstand's mission was to reach a new growing teenaged consumer population. The show was designed for that from the beginning, meaning that its purpose was not only to reach as many teens as it could, and therefore sell as much product as possible, but also to keep from offending as many of those teens, and their parents, as possible.

You cannot have it both ways. You cannot increase your ratings on commercial television by taking a stand on a very controversial subject, such as race relations and integration were in the 1950s & 1960s. It couldn't be done then, and it can't be done now!

This is also an excellent history of segregation in housing, education, employment, and overall opportunity in Philadelphia that represents a microcosm of the United States.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bo on July 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A little wordy I thought it was going to be about Band Stand but it was about a lot more and I had to put it down because it was just too much
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