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on October 17, 1999
The Promised Land defies the myth of level playing fields in the so-called democracy called America. Slavery, the sharecropping system, Jim Crow, segregation, White violence toward Blacks, and continued social, economic, political and institutional racism display the very foundation upon which this society is built. Lemann challenges readers to deal with this truth and acknowledge privilege, racism, exploitation and victimhood. After reading The Promised Land one has to be mentally warped to continue blaming victims for their plights.
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on February 29, 2000
I enjoyed this book a lot also. From slavery to migrating to Chicago, I learned a lot about the African-American experience.This book has shown me the many obstacles that my people have had to overcome and has taught me to be so thankful for those who fought for rights for African-Americans so I would have a better experience than they had growing up in America. It has also shown me why Blacks are still not seen on the same level playing field as Whites today.Even though this book is factual it reads more like a novelin that it includes excerpts about the lives of many Blacks growing up back then.The video series that goes along with this book also adds a personal feel to the novel. This video series is a must for every families video collection.
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on February 8, 2000
In The Promised Land, Nicholas Lemann tells several interwoven tales. One is about Mississippi sharecroppers who migrated to Chicago during the middle decades of the century. Another is about the bungled policies of President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." Binding them together is Mr. Lemann's attempt to understand why the United States has a black underclass that probably lives in greater squalor and desperation than any other people on earth. The book's perspective is the by now standard one that pins most of the blame for black failure on white racism, and it leads to a call for an "ambitious wave of new programs" that will bring the underclass into the American mainstream. Nevertheless, The Promised Land is by no means a simple rehash of the liberal clichés of the 1960s. Mr. Lemann does not gloss over the failures that stemmed from the soft-headed zeal for uplift that characterized the period. At the same time, his accounts of the lives of underclass blacks do not leave an impression of helplessness and victimization so much as one of fecklessness and self-destruction. The author coats his facts with a layer of liberal indulgence, but he has gathered the facts and they are not pretty.
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on January 19, 2009
This is a Joycean journey and is perhaps the reason some people had trouble with its concept. It ends where it starts.

The work starts out in Mississippi, then segues to Chicago, Washington, Chicago and back to Mississippi. In the process we cover the technological origins of the Great Migration, the building to the second Chicago ghetto, the rise and fall of the Great Society and the remigration (albeit scant) back to Mississippi. All of this is seen through the eyes of several families that took part in the migration.

Thus this is not the format we are used to in dealing with historical works. I found the mixture of historical narrative and the reality of the families involved to be a charming mix, one that touched me on a human scale.

I read this work at the same time I read "The Building of the Second Ghetto" (a rather more opaque but valuable work). The two complimented each other.
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on January 13, 2011
If you are a lover of Black History you will really enjoy this book. The author takes us on a journey with several families that moved north in the 20th century. He writes about the hardships that they faced along with millions of African Americans who travel north in search of a better life and how are major cities handle and couldn't handle this migration. You will also learn which policy makers tried to address social programs and the war on poverty.
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on February 8, 2007
Years ago, on the recommendation of a black conservative talk show host, I read this book. 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. This historical analysis does not propose solutions as much as illustrate and analyze the issues of ascendancy from slavery.
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on November 1, 2006
As an historic account, The Promised Land contains many interesting personal anecdotes hung on the framework of a much broader social picture that make the book an engaging and informative read. Although the book covered many different characters, which made it hard to follow at times, each one had a valuable contribution to make to Lemann's work in portraying for his readers the society and factors that influenced migration amongst the black population in the middle of the 20th century. I think Lemann could be criticized for focusing too much on the political sparring during the chapter on Washington, which digresses from the book's topic of black migration and adds little relevant information. I also think that while Lemann's relating of the personal lives of black migrants has the advantage of being engaging, it has the disadvantage of perhaps being too personal. In other words, the experiences of the individuals he elects to interview and record may not accurately relate the average experience for a migrant. I think that to carry more weight, the stories must be compared to some sort of statistical data to show that they correlate to the norm. I felt the writing was eloquent yet easily readable. I gained a much greater understanding of two areas of history of the United States of which I had little prior knowledge: the life of African-Americans in the Civil Rights era and the domestic influences of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations in focusing on poverty amongst the black minority.
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on April 27, 2016
An old, but still very much untold story of the assimilation problems of southern share-cropper Blacks moving to the south side of Chicago.
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on October 9, 2015
fascinating cultural history -- heartbreaking, yet also inspiring. I learned much about the Mississippi delta and Chicago ..
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on January 9, 2009
Very informative for those who are unfamiliar with the great Black migration to the North. Oh, and a great cover, priceless
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