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America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible Paperback – February 2, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Written by a pair of social scientists--Stephan Thernstrom is a professor of history at Harvard; his wife, Abigail, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute--America in Black and White is a comprehensive look at how much life has changed (and remained the same) for black Americans. The authors conclude that, while much remains to be done, life has gotten measurably better for blacks since the civil rights movement. For example, only a quarter of black families live below the poverty line, as compared with more than three-quarters of black families in 1940; similarly, where 60 percent of working black women were domestics in 1940, today a majority are white-collar workers. In what will likely prove to be the most controversial of their conclusions, the authors argue that, while many problems remain, traditional civil rights remedies, such as affirmative action and racial preferences, will not solve those problems. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is a solid, sweeping account (from a Harvard scholar and a race relations specialist) of race relations in the United States over the last 50-some years, from the days of Jim Crow, through sit-ins, the African American migration from the rural South to the urban North, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, the affirmative action era, the racially perceptual influence of an "appallingly high" urban black crime level, and the steady growth of a suburban black middle class. The authors assess judicial, educational, political, and social influences on what, despite real continuing problems, has been progress in easing race-related inequities. They see preferential policies as giving credence to the separateness of minorities. On balance, they are optimistic, as long as opportunity is provided for everyone in one nation. Of great breadth and depth, this work is highly recommended for academic and public readership.?Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Touchstone ed. edition (February 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684844974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684844978
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on December 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's "America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible" charts a different course from many of the scholarly books written about racial relations in the United States today. The authors agree that the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s was a resounding success, opening many doors to African-Americans as a result of the systematic dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the South. This book is necessary, claim the authors, because the ideas that originally drove the civil rights movement have since drifted into dangerous terrain. According to this book, Martin Luther King's message of one nation where all people will be judged by their individual merits and not skin color has become a land where blacks and whites are once again moving into separate camps based on race. The introduction of affirmative action programs and other racial social policies does not solve divisive problems but instead creates new racial barriers. Moreover, media and civil rights proponents today discuss black problems as though that segment of the population has made little progress. The authors insist that there are still nagging difficulties to overcome, but that a "lack of analytic rigor" leads to false perceptions about how far blacks have actually risen in society. Therefore, the authors rely heavily on statistical tables, charts, and polls to prove their arguments.

The first section of "America in Black and White" outlines the history of the odious conditions blacks faced in the American South and the resulting rise of the civil rights movement.
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By A Customer on December 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I read this book with the explicit purpose of exposing the flaws that I expected to find for an article I was writing about racial myths. Instead, I found myself convinced by the statistics and arguments, notwithstanding intensive and prolonged scrutiny of the data. It proved two things. First, I'm not as much a closed-minded leftist as my critics like to claim and, second, that the Thernstroms are not as susceptible to error as people like me like to claim. (and it was interesting being labeled as gullible by my ever so fickle fans) This is an extremely important voice in the race-relations conversation. Give the Thernstroms credit for a job well done.
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Format: Paperback
Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's book is the most comprehensive survey of American race relations that I have ever read. The authors present important new information about the positive changes and improvements in the lives of African-Americans as a whole. They go on to argue, with tons of statistics to back them up, that the perception of serious racial divisions in our country are outdated, exaggerated, and dangerous. The reason for this, they show, is political: "it nurtures the mix of black anger and white shame and guilt that sustains the race-based social policies implemented since the late 1960s." Proponents of this status quo are afraid that calling attention, for example, to the rapidly-growing black middle class, "... would invite public complacency and undercut support for the affirmative action regime."
I was especially enthralled by the authors' analysis of the "War on Poverty" programs of the 1960's, particularly the expansion of welfare, and their horrifically negative effects on generations of black families since. Not only did the "War on Poverty" make things worse for the poor, but the expansion of welfare to include unwed women and children fostered a lifestyle of dependency and irresponsible behavior, and precipitated the downward trend in two-parent black families, that has left three generations of black Americans in dire straits ever since.
Liberals, especially black liberals, are terrified of books like this, and rightfully so. This book undercuts the blacks-as-perennial-victims/American-society-as-forever-racist rhetoric that keeps the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons, with support from the liberal media, in business. Along with the works of John McWhorter, Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, this books serves as a much-needed wake-up call on the issue of race; a cold dose of reality that no doubt makes most liberals cringe.
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Format: Paperback
It's clear the Thernstroms set out to create a definitive work. Despite the claim that Americans struggle with discussions about race, they argue that race is the focus of our media, entertainment, political discussions, economic policy, education policy, etc. What they believe is missing is the `lack of analytical rigor' applied towards these issues. They believe the discussion has gotten muddled with dogma, clever rhetoric, and unproven assumptions, which has led to tremendous confusion and frustration. Exceptionally well researched and plenty of `analytical rigor', passion and sensitivity, the Thernstroms have produced a work that has cleared the fog on a wide-range of issues including housing, civil rights legislation, education, job discrimination, voting, crime, the black middle class, etc. This work is also highly qualified to stand the test of time.

Some may be put off by the authors right of center analysis. They question the merits of affirmative action, proportional representation, and the degree to which racism continues to hinder blacks. This work is less incendiary than Dinesh D'Souza's `The End of Racism' (which is still very good), however, this work is replete with statistics and hard data that are difficult to dismiss.

America has gone through extraordinary steps to move beyond the sins of its past. There is little doubt that through this work the Thernstroms have a sincere interest in helping America move towards becoming a genuinely color-blind nation.
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