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The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America Paperback – March 31, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0679733478 ISBN-10: 0679733477 Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (March 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679733477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679733478
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From 1940 to 1970, some five million blacks migrated to the urban North. In a vivid document that spent 10 weeks on PW 's bestseller list and was a BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternate, Lemann collects personal accounts and refutes the belief that all federal programs to aid the black poor failed.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Focusing on the larger post-1940 complement of the black South-to-North movement--the "Great Black Migration"--that created New York's Harlem and similar black quarters in every major northern city, Lemann traces the roots of Ameri ca's rotting ghettos. Moving between Clarksdale, Mississippi, Chicago, and the nation's capital with skill, Lemann (a contributing editor at The Atlantic ) particularizes and personalizes in life stories the forces that shifted five million blacks North after 1940 and then trapped most of them and their progeny in poverty. His essay in social causation and consequences rings as a manifesto of public policy for the 1990s with the clear theme that the nation can and must undo what its racism has done. It is highly recommended for all collections on contemporary America. Quality Paperback Book Club alternate.
- Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I read this book in school for An African American class.
aaron.spence@platinum.com
While I could understand how this man could read a corroboration of his own views into this book, the conclusions I drew were considerably more compassionate.
Twice-lived
Throughout the book Lemann uses far too many eight-dollar, academician words when simpler forms would do nicely, and would fit the subject matter better.
Chris Serb

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Stuartk7@frontiernet.net on January 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
"The Promised Land" is a fascinating study of the effects, both on the "immigrants" themselves and on America, of the migration of Blacks from the Mississippi Delta to the industrial cities of the North, in this case, specifically Chicago. The book traces the experiences of a group of individuals who made the migration, telling their story through time, beginning with the immigrants and continuing on with the families they built in the North, with a rough time frame of the 1940's - 1970's.
The book comprises 2 basic strengths: the approach to the material and the resulting structure in which the story is told, and the sheer interest of the events themselves and the people who lived them.
The author approaches the story he wishes to tell in two ways: He relates the story of the people themselves, giving these sections of the book an oral history like content, but intermixes the chapters with those based on an analytic, scholarly approach, where the individual strories previously related are woven into the bigger historical picture. The approach works wonderfully, giving the book a structure both readable as a straightforward story of human beings relating their own very personal roles in historical events but also allowing the reader to put these events in a greater historical context, to understand for instance the sad downward slope experienced in the Black working class communities as the years passed. The early immigrants made their way to Black sections of Chicago which, while segregated and relatively poor compared to the White sections, also managed to provide at least the basis of a thriving community, in which work was available and there was a hope of moving up in the world.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on September 11, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well written interesting book presenting information vital to understanding contemporary America. At the same thime this is only indirectly a book about the Great Black Migration. Rather it is about policies at the federal level, especially the collage of programs called the "war on poverty" and how they relate to American society in the 1960s and 1970s with examples from several African Americans from the Clarksdale Mississippi area who migrated to Chicago, several of them returning to Clarksdale.

One of the most valuable parts of the book--and well-written-is the description of the changes that went on in the 1940s with mechanism of agriculture that led to the migration--cotton got picked and then weeded mechanically the army of cotton field hads who had been the most important segment of the African American population was no longer needed in the South. This is one of the best and most practical explanations of this, especially as he focuses on Clarksdale Mississippi and the surrounding area. He gives a good history of the evolution of the cotton crop in the area and the evolution of Black society, providing examples in the lives of several people.

To me this is quite useful because one of my chief focuses is the history of the Blues. Clarksdale --the big town near where Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Son House, Charlie Batton, and so many other Blues singers came from--is central to the history of the Delta Blues. Knowing the social and economic conditions that existed there is quite useful for music scholars who can profit from this part of the book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant book. Lemann tackles a very daunting subject and presents it in a style that's cogent, humane and easy to understand. Black inner city povery is a decidedly "unsexy" topic. We've all heard the bromides that the government "tried and failed" to solve urban poverty, the problem is just to too intractable to deal with, etc. Lemann, however, makes the issues and characters very clear and accessible. Best of all, his conclusion is a passionate and clear-minded prescription for change -- a great counterpoint to the cynicism of contemporary pundits and policymakers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George Fulmore on July 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book in conjunction with reading "the southern diasposa." If one were to only buy/read only one of these books, I would definitely recommend the latter; however, I'll go on to review the former, which is worth the read, as well.

"The Promised Land" starts out with its best. The first chapter is about Clarksdale, Mississippi, and how Blacks and whites interacted there in the first decades of the 20th century. The whites lived on one side of the tracks, the Blacks on the other. Blacks could not vote, and there was no guarantee their children would have an education. Blacks lived in plantation cabins with roofs that leaked and without electricity or insulation. The shareholder system was in place, as was segregation. The landholders needed Blacks to pick cotton and work the fields; the Blacks had nowhere else to go and no other way to make a living. In 1900, 90% of American Blacks lived in The South.

A really good cotton picker could make $4 per day, but in Chicago in the 40's, one could make 75 cents per hour. Plus, one could work overtime, and rent a place relatively cheap. It was a way out; it was an opportunity. The author introduces us to several cottonpickers and laborers in Clarksdale who decide that they have had enough. They move to Chicago to seek the promised land and opportunities. One is Ruby Hopkins.

The book then tells us about the Black experience in Chicago in the 40's, via Ruby and others, and it introduces us to the world of Mayor Daily. But, abruptly, in a new chapter, the book moves us to Washington, D.C., where we get excruciating details about the politics of Washington in the 60's and 70's and how it addressed Black poverty and inequality. It's as if another book has begun.
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