Read Negroland by Margo Jefferson Online


At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac—here is a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of the author’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned with distancing itself from whites and the black generality while tirelessly measuring itself against both.   Born in upper-crusAt once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac—here is a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, and American culture through the prism of the author’s rarefied upbringing and education among a black elite concerned with distancing itself from whites and the black generality while tirelessly measuring itself against both.   Born in upper-crust black Chicago—her father was for years head of pediatrics at Provident, at the time the nation’s oldest black hospital; her mother was a socialite—Margo Jefferson has spent most of her life among (call them what you will) the colored aristocracy, the colored elite, the blue-vein society. Since the nineteenth century they have stood apart, these inhabitants of Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.”   Reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the fallacy of postracial America—Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions. Aware as it is of heart-wrenching despair and depression, this book is a triumphant paean to the grace of perseverance....

Title : Negroland
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307378453
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 248 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Negroland Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-04-13 11:35

    This is a wonderful book. The author's story of the slings and arrows of outrageous racism in a country that is supposed to be have overcome it's dreadful past now Obama is a two-term president is interesting. We hear so little from the African-American middle and upper classes. Many people from my island go to the US to study or work, all of them middle class. They come back for holidays dressed in sharp suits and 'been to foreign' accents. I wonder how it is for them? They tend to live in enclaves of others from the island where they stayed when they first went over. Since these island people come from where they were kings in their own country and are far from ghetto folk, I wonder how it is for them in the racist US that Margo Jefferson so insightfully portrays? I never thought to ask. But next time, at the next wedding or funeral that brings some of them home, I will ask.______My son whose father is Black and upper class cannot identify with this book at all. West Indians for all their superficial similarities share very little of modern lives with African-Americans. You might think that this is because Blacks have had political power in the Caribbean for a very long time - and my son comes from a political family - but Sir Hilary Becklessays (about Barbados) that it is as if Whites have allowed Blacks political power, but kept control of the economics themselves. Interesting...______I listened to the abridged BBC audio book (1.25 hours long) and was so impressed I bought the hardback. It is the history, past and recent, of the Black upper class. I didn't know that one of the first legal slaveholders in the US was a Black person. That was something new and surprising.... It's also killingly awful just how much White privilege is unnoticed by those who possess it and whose unconscious expression is often experienced as discrimination by those who don't. Unintended racism, racism that would never ever be felt let alone expressed, but racism nonetheless and worse because those who inflict it have no idea that they are.

  • Brina
    2019-04-02 10:39

    Negroland by Margo Jefferson is her memoir of growing up in an upperclass African American household in Chicago during the 1950s and '60s. While Jefferson does discuss her upbringing, she also discusses what it means for her to be African American in this country in terms of class, race, and gender. From all these anecdotes I gleaned Jefferson's definitive take on race, and for this I rate the book 4 stars. Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 to Ronald and Irma Jefferson of Chicago's vibrant upper class African American community. Ronald, a physician, and Irma, a seamstress, desired that their children excel in this country so they enrolled them in University of Chicago Lab School, a progressive school which admitted African American students. It was in a context with few role models or peers who looked like her that Jefferson learned about race relations in her city. While the schools had few people of color, prior to the 1964 passage of the equal rights act, popular culture contained few others. The select few who made it including Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, and Sammy Davis, Jr. who did succeed were either cast in stereotypical black roles, even when they achieved fame. Along with Jackie Robinson on the ball field, these Hollywood stars were looked up to by a generation of black children who were likewise not expected to succeed in society. Because of the low expectations, successful African Americans like the Jeffersons stayed in Negroland, a separate society of upper class blacks who created a culture in which their children could achieve greatly in the United States. Jefferson was fortunate that her parents taught her and her older sister Denise to be aware of prejudiced behavior. On a family trip in 1956, the Jeffersons were looked down upon in an Atlantic Beach, New Jersey hotel and only remained one evening. Likewise if Margo had to sing a song with derogatory lyrics in school, her mother explained to her why it was such, and persuaded the primarily white school to change what the students were studying. Not all blacks were as fortunate as the Jeffersons, however, and they even chose to live in upper class Hyde Park where they were surrounded by likeminded blacks and whites as opposed to a lower class African American community. This shows to me that class played almost a larger role in Jefferson's upbringing as did race. As the feminist movement took shape, Margo explained that it was important to view things in the context of class, race, and gender. The early feminist movement was primarily for white women, so she chose whether to label herself a feminist or a black rights advocate. In this regards she taught people to view race in a lens of "one voice" and chose which movements to align herself with. A successful journalist, I found Jefferson's Chicago much different than the North Side I am familiar with. Other than the mention of Marshall Fields on State Street, Jefferson for all purposes was describing a foreign city to me. Before the equal rights act, light skinned blacks could choose to pass for white in order to ensure a better future for themselves and their children. Likewise successful blacks like the Jeffersons enrolled their children in white schools while still teaching them African American culture through community organizations. I found Negroland to be an eye-opening experience about life in the African American community in Chicago, and enjoyed the prose's structure of alternating anecdotes, lists, and Jefferson's own story. I highly recommend this "one voice" look in African American class, race, and gender to all.

  • Lauren Cecile
    2019-03-29 11:47

    It was very interesting and a rare glimpse into the world of privileged African-Americans. It is a memoir, however, it reads less like a novel and more like non-fiction/essay.

  • Steve
    2019-04-10 13:29

    There was much to absorb and ponder in Margo Jefferson’s Negroland, a fascinating recollection of life growing up in the titular purgatory, between two worlds centered on race, class, and wealth in a changing American landscape. Jefferson’s parents were well-to-do professionals (“comfortable” as her mother described it to the young, curious author), rich by black standards, upper-middle class by white standards. Therefore, Ms. Jefferson had a rare experience for the times and one that caused on-going self-image frustrations and a constant internal tug-of-war. She describes her family as belonging to “…the Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians.”Ms. Jefferson’s writing brilliance gives a strong voice to these memoirs, tackling a host of topics, all couched within her personal family history, as she moves from child to adult. She gives her distinctive, biting perspective on the relentless and myriad demonstrations of racism from next-door neighbors to desk clerks in Atlantic City hotels. She learns by observing her parents’ frustrated and angry reactions to things she is too young and naïve to understand, like the discomfort or refusal by whites to address her pediatrician father as “Doctor,” or her fourth grade music teacher engaging the class in singing Stephen Foster songs with their racial epithets in the lyrics. Ms. Jefferson juggles the implicit racism from the white community, with the mixed messages and issues of authenticity she received as an educated, upper-middle-class black person in America. It was a delicate balancing act: “Negro privilege had to be circumspect; impeccable but not arrogant; confident yet obliging; dignified, not intrusive.”It’s important to distinguish that this is no angry, vindictive rant against an America that continues to struggle with and even acknowledge racial problems, but rather a thoughtful retelling of one woman’s distinctive experience as a well-to-do black woman in a nation not yet ready to accept successful blacks as equal. This book is not overflowing with seething rage or snarky ridicule of racists, but offers instead the powerful and compelling memoirs of an intelligent and reflective woman with a gift for taut prose. In the wrong hands this could’ve been yet another wedge hammered into the chasm of our national racial split. In Ms. Jefferson’s talented hands, it is an evocative photograph, one that shows all Americans just how matter-of-fact these issues are. In short, this is who we are as Americans. These are the divisions that separate us by race, education, gender, and income, fueled by socially accepted stereotypes, evidenced in ways subtle and overt, benign and malignant.Negroland is a book that will start debates, introspection, and shed light on racial relations in America. It’s a book that should be read because it gives such a unique and fresh perspective on being black in America. Given the news of the day, this book is enormously timely as well as being a great read.

  • Rana
    2019-03-23 06:45

    Honest talk: I would totally have DNFed this if I hadn't felt uncomfortable about not finishing a book on race that everybody else seems to love. I just kept hoping for something more. I just didn't like the writing style at all as it seemed incoherent and disjointed. I had a really hard time figuring out if she was quoting from old journals or magazines, talking to me/the reader, or telling a story of her childhood. The writing style made the whole story very insubstantial and without a lot of emotional or intellectual heft. If you put the word "memoir" in the title, that's what I'm going to expect. Not some random mishmash of stories and reflections and I don't know even what. I get that it's a memoir of what she calls Negroland, a specific cultural subset, and not the memoir of her life but still, nope.

  • Shannon
    2019-04-19 08:37

    It feels like a bit of a disservice to call Negroland a memoir. Though Margo Jefferson’s memories of life as an upper class black child in Chicago fill the pages of the book, the overall effect is much more than what we tend to associate with the format. It is the work of someone who knows and loves poetic voices and has searched for meaning in them her whole life. It picks up history, flows through the past, and draws a direct line to the present.Jefferson highlights difficult, thought-provoking questions of privilege alongside notes on pop culture and fashion. Yet, everything from the actors she adored as a child to the embarrassment of wearing glasses is explained from her unique perspective. This is most powerful when she touches on her struggle with depression, which she found at odds with the expectations for black women.“Because our people had endured horrors and prevailed, even triumphed, their descendants should be too strong and too proud for such behavior. We were to be ladies, responsible Negro women, and indomitable Black Women. We were not to be depressed or unduly high-strung; we were not to have nervous collapses. We had a legacy. We were too strong for that.”Those polarized feelings are at the core of the book, which takes readers into spaces rarely explored and does so in engaging, beautiful prose. Jefferson’s raw reflection and vibrant talent combine to make Negroland a surprising and powerful must-read.More at

  • Book Riot Community
    2019-04-08 14:20

    So much of the myth of the American Dream is about the idea that if you work hard, play by the rules, and excel, you’ll achieve anything you want. Negroland is here to point out all the failings and trappings of that concept. In a way, the black elite that Jefferson describes exemplifies the ideal of overcoming obstacles. Yet, what Jefferson so aptly does, is shed a light on how race relations in this country derails this simplistic narrative.— Ines Bellinafrom The Best Books We Read In January 2017:

  • Tiffany Reisz
    2019-04-15 07:23

    Such a beautifully written and heart-breaking memoir. One gut punch after the other. And yet I was like, "Please, may I have another!" Couldn't stop reading it. Just brilliant. Highly recommended.

  • Monica
    2019-04-03 13:36

    Stray thoughts about Negroland:What if Roxanne Gay was born 30 years earlier? That's what kept running through my mind as I read this book. Negroland had a tethered relationship with the pop culture of half a century ago. Jefferson relies upon references of the times to tell her story. While I'm certain a lot of what she is saying would resonate with my mother; a lot descriptions and comparisons went over my head.I'm reminded of the story of Oprah when she went shopping abroad and a store clerk at an exclusive high end shop didn't recognize her and refused to show her a ludicrously expensive handbag. Yeah, it's a demonstration of obvious racism, but it's kind of hard to drum up sympathy when you are casually shopping for a handbag that costs more than what most people will make in 10 years.Rich Negroes are upset because they get treated like all the rest of the Negroes in spite of the fact that they are rich. Their sense of entitlement has been taken from them. Again, hard to drum up sympathy when these people who think they are better than most Negroes are treated like the rest of the Negroes. Essentially if they were treated the way they believed they should be treated, they wouldn't give a hoot about Civil Rights or the plight of "lesser" Negroes. Money is what matters. Nope.Rich people while growing up, struggle with identity issues. Rich Negro people while growing up, struggle with identity issues. Poor people while growing up, struggle with identity issues.Her discussion about her relative who passed as white until he retired, then moved back to his roots and reconnected/acknowledge his Negro heritage definitely reminiscent of The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Signifying the necessity of staying true to who you are. Negroes often have to be something else in order to thrive in the working world. Forced to disregard their otherness. Suppression of identity when finally released comes on strong. People lament an resent the fact that they had to mute/disfigure who they are (character not appearance).I grew up a Negro middle class military brat. Honestly, our upbringing was not that different. No camps or cotillions for me but my older sister was a Debutante. I found a lot of similarity if not in our experiences (Jefferson and myself); in our environments. Yes, different times and my mother was a Registered Nurse rather than a Socialite, but she was also an Officer's wife with all of it's associated protocols and social expectations.To be fair, Jefferson is merely recounting her life as a member of "the talented tenth". She is not looking for sympathy or support. She is allowing us a glimpse into a lifestyle that perhaps we were not exposed to before. There is a lot that is familiar to all African American women in her tale. In fact, there is a lot that is familiar to most women in her tale. No matter where you are in class structures, there are certain treatments of women that a still prevalent today. Your appearance matters far more than it probably should and oftentimes trumps substance and/or character. People will accept and reject you because you are a Negro. People will accept and reject you because you are a woman. People will accept and reject you because you are wealthy. People will accept and reject you because you aren't wealthy enough. People will accept and reject you for reasons you may never know. There is an implicit unfairness to life.This was an interesting memoir and there is a lot to like and ponder here. My one critique is that I read very little in the book about things that Jefferson enjoyed or that made her happy. Surely her whole life was not this joyless. The book is an examination of a life. It's not a downer, but it's not uplifting either.3.75 Stars

  • Rachel
    2019-03-23 09:26

    What a waist of a topic! What a painful, disjointed, chaotic, rambling... I was so excited about reading Negroland. I thought the topic would be a rare glimpse into a world that is difficult to infiltrate, yet a world that intrigues me.I was wrong.As so many reviewers have written, it's not a memoir. The first 50 or so pages cover a confusing history of hierarchies within Black communities throughout history. The history is disjointed, jumping from character to character and I often couldn't figure out who the speaker was. And that just continues throughout the book as Jefferson switches to talking about her own life. She jumps from time period to another, switches the narrator, and most disappointingly for me, doesn't ever really delve into the life she lived or the communities she was a part of. Everything feels very surface, nothing personal, no real struggle of obstacle. I hope someone out there can take this topic and really do it justice.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-03-26 12:32

    I enjoyed reading Negroland very much. It left me wanting more though in almost every category it touched on. There are extraordinary thoughts here but they didn't cohere for me into a whole. There is a pan-historical thread, for example, that considers, too briefly, how a handful of African Americans navigated racism and extreme hostility to become educated and prosperous prior to the 1950's. There is a thread that speaks in the voice of "we" and is roughly defined throughout the book as economically successful, well-educated African Americans in the separate-but-equal era of the 1950's. There is also a personal story, but the anecdotes from Jefferson's own life seem picked to show a moral or make a social point rather than rising organically or providing a complete sense of Jefferson's life experiences. So while deeply readable it left me wanting. Maybe my sense of incompleteness from the book is completely perfect though. Margo Jefferson makes frequent interjections in her story to examine her own, hesitant feelings about her subject; to acknowledge her ambivalence to speak about "Negroland" at all, after being drilled as a child to never complain, to always be an example for others, to always put her best foot forward. This ambivalence about how much to share becomes a subtext in the book that both enriches it and prevents it from being a completely open and honest look at an era, and a way of life, that is no more.

  • R
    2019-04-16 11:47

    It has taken me a while to actually write a review. I'll try to be brief.I am a part of the generation after hers who also grew up in the world of sorority functions, debutante balls, cotillions, proper decorum at all times, etc. The author and my mother (and her sisters) are the same age and I would say that they look back upon this time in upper middle class Black America quite differently. Granted...we are southern/Texan women, so that brings a different slant to things, certainly. Segregation in southern states never really allowed for too many feelings of "otherness". They were around Black people of all socioeconomic levels all day, every day. By the time I came along in the late 60s/early 70s, the family could have moved anywhere, but chose not to so that we could have that same sense of balance. Our school friends were overwhelmingly white (many Jewish), but we came home to play in the streets with kids who looked just like us. At no point were any of us allowed to flaunt our relative privilege, compare skin color or even tease about such things (because Black is Black is Black) or any of those things that would have exhibited poor manners. Of course that's not to say WE weren't teased in the neighborhood and at school, but it was always drilled into our heads to be better than, rise above and so forth. So I did...never even realizing there may have been a choice in the matter.People are often shocked when I reveal that I am of the fourth generation of college graduates. On my maternal side, most everyone (starting with my great-grandfather) has a graduate or professional degree. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of a family where education was emphasized. There is no shame or embarrassment in this as it also allowed us to encourage others to do the same, by example in some cases and financially in others.My 2-stars are less about her feelings, because only the author owns those, but more to the writing. I wanted less of her angst and more of the story and perhaps analysis. Yes, excellence was the expectation at all times and I'm not sure there is salve to cover the cracks whenever they began to appear...even today. But, I got more out of her NPR interview than I did out of the book, so I went in with very high expectations. I was left with more questions about her, her world today (friends, she still a member of any of those organizations???) and how all of that fits in with her upbringing.

  • Sam Schulman
    2019-04-10 09:21

    The greatest Lab School/U-High memoirist since Ned Rorem.Margo Jefferson's book was, she says, hard to write. and perhaps for that reason she makes the entrance to the book difficult - even rebarbative - for the reader. I urge you to persevere, perhaps reserving the first 38 pages to read last. What follows them is a magnificent work which achieves what very few writers of autobiographies can do: locate the subject in public history as well as in the story of herself and her family. "Negroland" is her term for the world in the 1950s and 60s of the ancestral elite of black Americans - descendents of people classified as Mulatto in the old south, or of free blacks in the antebellum North (like W.E.B. DuBois), and of freedmen whose talents were immediately marketable to post-Civil War white America, and it is the world in which Margo was born in 1947 in Chicago. She went to my school and high school, and had many of the same teachers - from Miss Thurston in kindergarten to Miss Borth in high school, and the high school drama teacher whom she chooses not to name - because she nails him, for his imposing his frustrations on us students, and for casting her in "Pygmalion" as Henry Higgins' housekeeper - which was shocking to us all at the time, which Margo may not know. (Margo was very kind to me as a freshman in HS when I was trying to prepare myself, Stanislavski-style, for the role of The Newsboy in "Our Town," in which she, a senior, was one of the stars). The world she describes was all around me, and I was almost completely unaware of it. But there is something in the situation of the black elite at the time that reminds me of that of the "American" Jews, descendents of pre-civil war German Jews who arrived before the Civil War, who were caught between their own white America on the one hand, and the hordes of Eastern European Jews who overwhelmed them in numbers and impact by the turn of the 20th century. There is far too much in this book to select, but I will always remember her parents' attitude to an uncle who is so light-skinned that he spends his entire working life as a white man, earning his living as a traveling salesman, but then when he retires, tries to rejoin the black community. Margo understands that his parents despise him twice - once for his desertion, and then for his mediocrity as a white man - why be a low-prestige white when the rest of the adults in her family were high-prestige in any terms?The heart of the memoir ends with a brief account of her college years, and an even briefer account of her distinguished adult career.Margo thinks she is a difficult person to love. She gets that wrong, but what she gets right is everything else, and adds to the history of black and white America a profound and intimate view of life in the 1950s and 60s free of caricature and retroactive adjustment to what is currently chic. I'm going to be thinking about her book for a long time.

  • Shakeia
    2019-03-29 14:44

    DNF. I ended up skimming it to "finish." The writing style was so disjointed I couldn't get into it and I certainly wouldn't call this book a memoir. Would not recommend. Hard pass.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-04-11 06:34

    BOTW Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 to a successful black, middle-class couple in Chicago. Her memoir looks back on her childhood and the black bourgeois upbringing that 'made and maimed me'.She explains the title of her book, "Negroland is my name for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty."But the material comforts provided by a father who was a paediatrician and a mother who was formerly a social worker were circumscribed by all the painful and baffling assumptions of racial prejudice. To be a child in Negroland you had to learn the rules. But who was making those rules? And what exactly were they?Margo Jefferson went on to become an arts and theatre critic on the New York Times and Newsweek. She won a Pulitzer for her journalism and now teaches at Columbia University.

  • Latanya (CraftyScribbles)
    2019-03-31 11:31

    In Negroland, Margo Jefferson explores her life during the 50s' and 60s' as a child of Chicago's black bourgeoisie, where secrets and rituals (e.g. hair pressing) determine one's stay in the daily climate of possibly returning to the pain and deference whites performed them to live.Various topics are explored: feminism, attending schools often as the only or one of a few black students, clothing and social mores, skin tone, hair, nose shapes, and other matters of keeping up with The Jeffersons.A certain melancholy roams the story as it progresses. Sadness which families fret to stay away from any slippage back into a world they denied for survival. It's not hard to understand how easily I could have lived within this strict society.Verdict4/5 Cat-Eye Glasses; Recommended

  • Pink
    2019-03-28 14:23

    I didn't enjoy reading this book, as I didn't get along with the writing style or construction, but it is an important and different look at growing up rich and black in America.

  • Linda Nordgren
    2019-04-16 11:27

    Inget vanligt upplägg av memoar det här, mer av enskilda texter som tillsammans blir FANTASTISKT bra. Enda anledningen till att jag inte ger en femma är för att jag upplevde den som rätt svårläst och komplicerad i vissa partier.

  • Beverly
    2019-04-05 09:45

    This was a 4.5 read for me.My thoughts:We have been told to be aware of the “one story”, and Ms. Jefferson’s unflinchingly frank memoir of the black elite is a well-needed puzzle piece to add to the complexities of the race discussion. Ms. Jefferson, whose work as a cultural critic has garnered her recognition and prizes, turns the lens towards herself as she looks over the privileges, the constraints, the changes of her life with affection, openness, and analysis. To set the tone of the book, the author defines “Negroland” to the reader and provides a history of the black elite. The format of the book worked well for me, it is told in the first-person and third-person perspective which allows the reader to be informed of the events that influenced not only the author but anyone who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, and also to be intimate with the specifics of the author’s life within her world. But identity is a complicated group characteristic often defined by others yet is a wholly individual as each of us defines who am I. The author honestly looks at this as she is coming of age where the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement uprooted the rules of race, class and gender and how our own individual ambitions were at times outside of what others expected of us. I ran a gamut of emotions when reading this thought-provoking book and for me there was much I could I identify with. Beautifully written and in a voice that is precise, courageous and dazzling as it looks at the challenges, tensions, and strategies of a particular time, I recommend this emotive memoir to all interested in understanding from where we come.

  • Jessica Woodbury
    2019-04-17 07:49

    It took me a long time to read this book. Not because it isn't interesting, or because it's dense, but because I wanted to take it in slowly. If you have ever thought about writing a memoir, this is necessary reading. Jefferson takes apart the memoir and reconstructs it chapter by chapter, tearing down the fourth wall whenever she feels like it, flouting convention here, following it closely there, treating every section as its own entity to be written in its own way. It's truly astounding.Race, gender, and class are the central subjects here (outside of Jefferson herself). This book is very specifically about being a well-off black woman of a particular society in a particular time and place.

  • Laurie Notaro
    2019-04-01 11:22

    Exceptional. Should be the common reader for all university students. Thoughtful, decisive, illuminating. A must-read.

  • Latiffany
    2019-04-04 13:49

    Dramatic.If I had to select one word to describe this memoir dramatic would be it and I am not using that word in a good way. This memoir had so much promise. I honestly thought it was going to be an excellent read. There is nothing wrong with a dramatic memoir. When a person chooses a theme of his/her life and expounds on it, one tends to get a little dramatic. The issue with this work is that there is no substance and the writer took a subject that had great potential and packaged it in fluff and presented it as a memoir. This is the story of a woman raised by two upper middle class African American parents, who along with other members of their community offered their children the absolute best. They sent them to prestigious schools, exposed them to the arts and culture, took them on extravagant vacations, provided them with the best wardrobe, etc. The parents were also portrayed as very loving toward their children and expected the best out of them.The story delves into the issue of race-mainly how white people dealt with African Americans who could afford to live in their neighborhoods. It also touches on how the high society African Americans did not want to live among low income African Americans. The opening of the story starts post slavery and shows how Negroland was formed. Early on there were well to do African Americans who wanted to to achieve success through education, hard work and cultivated relationships with other African Americans with similar goals.Then, the author transitions into her own life, which again sounds very rich and layered, but turned out to offer very little. As stated, she grows up fairly wealthy. She struggles with race as do most youth. There is a period in her college years where she has dabbles in the the Black Panther party.Her racial struggles cause her to contemplate suicide. I take suicide seriously, so I don't say this in jest, but I could not take this portion of the novel seriously. It lacks authenticity and I did not find it believable. Overall, I was disappointed in this story. It had a great opportunity to be a fantastic read, but the author did not do a good job in developing the memoir.

  • Grady McCallie
    2019-04-09 09:49

    This book has a lot to say about growing up in an upper-class African-American household in the 1950s and '60s, and it says it with a keen, poised, and unsentimental style. The style both adds to the pleasure of reading this memoir, and also reflects the stresses the upbringing put on the author and her older sister: pressure to be always graceful, not just right but elegantly right, unsparing of self, and always quietly aware of the precariousness of one's social position. It's just that now, looking back as a mature adult, with her own character and values largely settled, the author also judges her child self - her snobbishness towards lower class black families, her shallow concerns about social status. There's a lot in this memoir that was necessarily beyond my own experience - particularly the pervasive stress of racial prejudice - but there's much here that rang deeply true, and it opened up her experience in an accessible, moving way. The last couple of chapters - Jefferson's life post-college, and transition to adulthood - I found less persuasive. It may be that I lacked some emotional prerequisite to understand this part, but I suspect it's more than Jefferson herself became less certain, less willing publicly to dissect her failings and triumphs, as she reached a time in her life that remains more fully a part of her current self. It's also likely the case that whatever those triumphs and failures are, they reflect her own moral choices more and her inherited social identity less, and in that sense are less relevant to the focus of the book. All in all, though, as a social and personal history of her childhood, the book is a revelation.

  • Guy Austin
    2019-04-18 13:21

    "The human psyche is pathetic" ... "It's what we have, Miss Jefferson. It's what we have." These lines taken, more or less, straight from the book about sums up my feelings about Negroland. I wanted to love it. It has moments. I nearly put it aside. I pushed through. It never hit a nerve. I think it an odd thing to call a memoir. She is in there. Between the lines. Little Women seems to loom large. Much of it, Negroland, is discussions on Class. Mixed with Race. A helping of Gender. Place it in a blender and you have Margo Jefferson's Negroland. Really I would say between 2.5 and 3. I rounded up. She has a Pulitzer after all. I may be in the minority. Many people loved it. Perhaps you will think otherwise.

  • Jamise // Spines & Vines
    2019-04-08 11:49

    This book was a disappointment. Poorly written, loads of rambling and disjointed at times. As much as I wanted to love this story there were times when I wanted to give up on the book. I labored through to the end and felt devoid of any attachment to the author or story. The author gives the reader a glimpse into her privileged upbringing as a member of the black elite; a group of African Americans in Chicago during the 1950's.

  • Sue Dix
    2019-04-19 13:50

    I chose to read this book to fill a square in a reading challenge bingo card: a memoir by a person of color. If fulfills that requirement. But this book is so much more than a memoir and so much more than the story of a person of color. It is a commentary on our ongoing racism. We will never be rid of that, I am afraid. This book does not offer hope that racism has been "conquered" or that racism will ever be "cured". It demonstrates racism and it's ever shifting mien. It is one woman's story but it describes the stories of the women who came before her and the differing paths chosen to become socially acceptable and therefore equal. But, as the book demonstrates, there was still no equality. One of the quotes from the book sums this up quite succinctly: "White people wanted to be white just as much as we did. They worked just as hard at it. They failed just as often. They failed more often. But they could pass, so no one objected." This is a mere 240 pages, but it is not a quick read. Take time to savor the pages. It is deserving of, demanding of your deep, thought-filled reading.

  • Paul
    2019-04-12 13:23

    Jefferson was born into a privileged family in Chicago; her father was head of paediatrics at a famous local hospital and her mother was a well-known socialite. Even though she had a rarefied upbringing and decent education in 1950’s America and could be considered part of the local elite, she was never going to be accepted by society in general, because she was black.“I call it Negroland because I still find “Negro” a word of wonders, glorious and terrible. A word for runaway slave posters and civil rights proclamations; for social constructs and street corner flaunts. A tonal-language word whose meaning shifts as setting and context shift, as history twists, lurches, advances, and stagnates. As capital letters appear to enhance its dignity; as other nomenclatures”Jefferson’s family were members of what she describes as Negroland, an exclusive club of privileged blacks or what her mother calls, “upper-class Negroes and upper-middle-class Americans”. They were excluded from the very high society of Chicago because of their colour whilst never managing to integrate themselves fully in the black community there. Through her eyes, we see American societies crucial turning points in the late 20th century; civil rights, gender awareness and prejudice. “Privilege is provisional. Privilege can be denied, withheld, offered grudgingly and summarily withdrawn. Entitlement is impervious to the kinds of verbs that modify privilege. Our people have had to work, scrape for privilege, gobble it down when those who would snatch it away weren’t looking. Keep a close watch.”The writing is conversational and at times chatty, but most importantly it is full of wry commentary, provocative observations and melancholic musings. She shows perseverance in trying to make her way in a country that has made real progression with regards to race, but still has so far to go. Worth reading for an insight into a culture and a country so very different to mine.

  • Sara Salem
    2019-04-07 09:39

    Fascinating memoir that looks out the intersection of being rich and Black in America. Good critique to orthodox Marxists who say class is all that matters; rich and Black will never be the same as rich and White in America.

  • Laura
    2019-04-14 13:50

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 to a successful black, middle-class couple in Chicago. Her memoir looks back on her childhood and the black bourgeois upbringing that 'made and maimed me'.She explains the title of her book, "Negroland is my name for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty."But the material comforts provided by a father who was a paediatrician and a mother who was formerly a social worker were circumscribed by all the painful and baffling assumptions of racial prejudice. To be a child in Negroland you had to learn the rules. But who was making those rules? And what exactly were they?2/5: To be born into a black , relatively wealthy family in Chicago, in the late 1940s, was to be born into a world of contradictions. Margo Jefferson describes this world of 'privilege and plenty' as 'Negroland'. But despite their comfortable home and private education she and her sister still had to navigate the rules that determined what made a black woman attractive. The shade of their skin, the texture of their hair, the shape of their noses.3/5: As her father became increasingly successful as a leading black paediatrician, he and her mother moved the family into a neighbourhood that had been exclusively white. Change was coming but it wasn't always welcome. As a young girl, Margo had to learn who amongst her white friends she could trust and who came from families which really despised them.4/5: Dr and Mrs Jefferson take their two young daughters on a holiday trip, but in Atlantic City not everything goes to plan.5/5: In the 1960s, as the Black Power movement in America gained momentum, the young Margo Jefferson had to find a way of resolving the internal conflicts arising from being educated to be better than the white people who occupied positions of power. Growing up with the advantages of class and money had somehow resulted in 'an excess of white-derived manners and interests'. Negotiating rules, entitlements and prejudices made it increasingly difficult to find her place and her self in the fractured world around her.Margo Jefferson went on to become an arts and theatre critic on the New York Times and Newsweek. She won a Pulitzer for her journalism and now teaches at Columbia University.Written and read by Margo JeffersonAbridged and produced by Jill WatersA Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

  • Michele
    2019-03-28 14:33

    "Being an Other, in America, teaches you to imagine what can't imagine you.""The fashion and beauty complex has so many ways to enchant and maim."Just two quotes from the end of "Negroland" by Margo Jefferson: A truly great book. Wow! What a writer. It was so painful to read but I looked forward to every page.Jefferson's magic is the ability to get up close to the reader and talk about an injustice that you can understand and then gently show you the amplified injustices that she suffered growing up as a black woman in the United States.I easily picked out two quotes at the end, but it felt like if I had had a highlighter the whole book would have been made neon pink.I have to add, Negroland makes you *understand* the pain we inflict on each other at a deep level. You come out the other end with an education.