Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Tally's Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men (Legacies of Social Thought Series)
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on June 26, 2009
This is Elliot Liebow's first book. I was extremely fortunate in having it as assigned reading in an introductory sociology course when I was an undergraduate. The book is exceptional in many ways.

When Liebow reached the dissertation stage in his doctoral program at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he was uncertain as to how to proceed. His advisor's advice was simple: "Go out and make like an anthropologist." Which is exactly what Liebow did.

Liebow "made like and anthropologist," moreover, not in an exotic society in the South Pacific or the Amazon, but in Washington, D.C. itself. He spent over a year observing and participating in the life of inner-city Black men who frequented an area referred to as Tally's corner. His choice of this area and these men required a good deal of tact, self-confidence, and anthropological skill: a thirty-seven year old White man entering and interacting in a group of young to middle-aged Black men who had no particular reason to accept him as anything other than a meddling outsider representing the dominant race.

Liebow, nevertheless, gained acceptance and provided insights into life among low-income inner-city Blacks that were unsuspected and invaluable. For example, the area was not nearly as socially disorganized as was commonly assumed. Instead, helping relationships based on friendship and kinship were commonplace. The area was, in fact, a neighborhood.

Black men were not the recklessly sexual itinerant impregnators that they were and often are assumed to be. Instead, their failure to stay with the women who bore their children was commonly rooted in their feelings of inadequacy at being unable to find a job that would enable them to support a family. These same men often provided nurturing and a modicum of financial support to other women and their children, people for whom they did not feel responsible. As a result, what they gave was beneficently gratuitous and would not be construed as not enough.

On the job, when they could find one, there was a prevailing expectation among employers that the Black workers would steal. As a hedge against this, the employers paid less than they otherwise would have. Consequently, the Black workers made very little money and, as a result, were more likely to steal to augment their incomes. This is a set of circumstances that renders the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy as something more than a cliche'.

Liebow's discussion of sitting in a car with a group of Black men discussing their sexual prowess is the kind of the account that gives his ethnography a strong sense of authenticity. Men have too much "dawg" in them to have diminished sexual appetites as they grow older. Men have too much "dawg" in them to be strictly monogamous for the long term.

Nevertheless, Liebow documented the existence of close but non-sexual friendships between men and women. Expressions like "goin' for cousins" meant that a man and a woman were good, supportive friends but remained sexually uninvolved.

Not long after Liebow's research was finished, the location called Tally's Corner fell victim to urban renewal. Again, a place that was construed as nothing but a slum, but was in fact a neighborhood, was destroyed in the name of progress.

Liebow's Tally's corner is a truly fine piece of ethnographic work. I still find it refreshing that he went into the field without research questions in mind, but came away with really interesting results.
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on November 7, 2000
Admittedly, I first read Tally's Corner almost three decades ago -- and it still has a hold over me. In those 30 years, I went from studying sociology to making films to doing start-ups in Silicon Valley. I am now in the process of ordering more copies to distribute to friends. Tally's Corner is an exceptional work. It had its origins in a doctoral thesis and yet it reads like a novel. Its powerful message aside, Tally's Corner is marvelous reading. Anyone who wants to write something important and lasting should look to Liebow to see how it is done. Tally's Corner defies the contrary logic which says "no pain, no gain" -- that all things profound must to be impossible for everyman to understand.
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on February 8, 1998
This book was assigned as part of a course taken on Oppression and Poverty in America. An excellent book for anyone interested in learning about life in the inner-city. Written in 1967 as a field study by the late Elliot Liebow, it offers a view of life that is not seen by most college students. I have assigned it to my Intro to Sociology class as a stepping off point for discussion about American culture, poverty, and family life. Very easy reading and truly a book that should be read by anyone who wants to begin to understand and accept diversity among people.
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This study of Black streetcorner men by noted anthropologist, Dr. Elliot Liebow, was his doctoral dissertation. It became recognized as one of the more important sociological treatises, at the time it was written; a time during which Blacks or African Americans were still referred to as Negroes. Dr. Liebow's year and a half long study of a group of disaffected Black males, who routinely frequented a streetcorner in Washington, D.C.'s inner city, provided the basis for the dissertation that gave rise to this book. His analysis of this particular societal subculture, in the context of the overall social milieu in which it exists, is still relevant today. While scholarly, the book is written in an engaging conversational tone, which makes for easy reading. This book should be read by all those with an interest in the social sciences.
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on August 11, 2010
There's nothing new that I could add to what's already been said in praise of it. What I do suggest is that it's extremely interesting to read "Tally's Corner" and then read "The Corner" by David Simon and Edward Burns. The books treat people at essentially the same socio-economic level in essentially the same geographic area. The effects of the 30 years between them aren't startling, not even surprising, really. However, reading the books together gives enormous emphasis to the nature of the changes in the lives of the inner-city poor over that period. And those change have not been for the better.
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This study of Black streetcorner men by noted anthropologist, Dr. Elliot Liebow, was his doctoral dissertation. It became recognized as one of the more important sociological treatises at the time it was written; a time during which Blacks or African Americans were still referred to as Negroes. Dr. Liebow's year and a half long study of a group of disaffected Black males, who routinely frequented a streetcorner in Washington, D.C.'s inner city, provided the basis for the dissertation that gave rise to this book. His analysis of this particular societal subculture, in the context of the overall social milieu in which it exists, is still relevant today. While scholarly, the book is written in an engaging conversational tone, which makes for easy reading. This book should be read by all those with an interest in the social sciences.
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on September 5, 2011
As an immigrant from UK, and unfamiliar with the topic from any angle whatsoever, this small book was packed with extraordinary observations I found to be exceptionally informative, helping me to overcome misinformation and prejudices I didn't even know I had. It was humbling and necessarily so. It speaks clearly to the intensely conflicted dilemma of chronically poor black men and their families during the fifties but has relevance in understanding the continuing dilemma of the great number of still struggling black families of today and it is a sad fact that there still seem to be so many. The study is rich with little known facts (to me and others like me) about the economic realities and struggles of black people caught in circumstances beyond their control and the various coping behaviors that at times were so utterly self defeating. If nothing else, my heightened awareness of the complex variables that come into play in the experiences of suffering in any marginalized group, made it worth reading. A fine study, should be required reading for high school students, particularly those in privileged private settings, who might become aware of their own sense of entitlement and how that impacts race relations. It provides a rare inside glimpse to a minority experience most of us will never ever be able to comprehend, though we need to make the effort. Ignorance is no excuse for prejudice but it is the main cause of it.
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on January 10, 2011
Elliot Liebow's Talley's Corner looks into the lives of a collection of poor black in Washington D.C. It is dated. When this was written, in the 1960's, there was no AIDS, minimum wage was around a dollar, most of the Vietnam war was in the future, as was LBJ's the 'War on Poverty'. Even so, Liebow's insights into human relations transcend race, poverty, location, and time. This very readable little book should be on the reading list of all students of the human condition.
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on April 8, 2015
In the 50s black men went to work, stayed with their wives and took care of their children. What changed all that? How about bringing in a million unskilled foreign workers into this country every year from the 60s on? That policy practically eliminated low skilled black men from the workforce overnight and depressed wages for everyone else. Johnson's Great Society was the final nail in the coffin of the black family when it made a condition for receiving benefits that no family can receive benefits if there was an able-bodied man in the house. That misguided policy created serial monogamy and out of wedlock births. Too bad author Liebow never explored the cause and effect of immigration policy on the low-skilled black employee.
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VINE VOICEon June 24, 2007
This work, aside from all useful insight into inner city culture, is able to offer the perspective qualitative research a good example of how to construct observation and insider knowledge into one. When writing-up qualitative research it is often hard to determine what balance between observation and insider language must be presented to convince the reader. This book, by its example, provides a very successful model that can be used by almost anyone. Simply stated, you must get this book in order to improve your qualitative research. Good luck!!!
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