A Memoir

Paperback - 2016
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Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 into upper-crust black Chicago. Her father was head of pediatrics at Provident Hospital, while her mother was a socialite. In these pages, Jefferson takes us into this insular and discerning society: "I call it Negroland," she writes, "because I still find 'Negro' a word of wonders, glorious and terrible." Negroland's pedigree dates back generations, having originated with antebellum free blacks who made their fortunes among the plantations of the South. It evolved into a world of exclusive sororities, fraternities, networks, and clubs--a world in which skin color and hair texture were relentlessly evaluated alongside scholarly and professional achievements, where the Talented Tenth positioned themselves as a third race between whites and "the masses of Negros," and where the motto was "Achievement. Invulnerability. Comportment." At once incendiary and icy, mischievous and provocative, celebratory and elegiac, Negroland is a landmark work on privilege, discrimination, and the fallacy of post-racial America.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016.
Edition: First Vintage Books edition.
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780307473431
Characteristics: 248 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 21 cm
Alternative Title: Negro-land


From Library Staff

2015 National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Autobiography.

A Pulitzer-winning book and theater critic for the New York Times and Newsweek, Jefferson grew up in Chicago in the 50s and 60s. Her parents were highly successful in an era when that was rarer for African Americans (her mother was a socialite and her father was head of pediatrics at Provident Ho... Read More »

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Oct 05, 2020

I have read a few books that are explicity about the racial divide in this country. For me,this memoir and Nile Rodgers' book illuminated the difficulties better than the instructional books. Negroland is an amazing book.

Aug 24, 2020

Though billed as the memoir of writer/journalist/critic Margo Jefferson, it's much more than just that. It's a look at all the varieties of "blackness," the cliches and stereotypes black people face every day, and about black cultural heroes. Highly recommended, especially in the current climate.

Jan 23, 2019

I found the book disjointed and somewhat hard to follow. She had some very interesting things to say, and once I approached the book as a series of essays or musings, it was a little easier. There's just no narrative.

Mar 10, 2018

This is Jefferson's memoir of growing up in the rarified world of the black bourgeoisie in Chicago, the daughter of a doctor and the rise of the civil rights movement, Black Power and feminism. It presents a view from this small slice of society, from which the author never really frees herself. The book is interesting and very well-written.

Jul 17, 2017

I think the book is well-written. Ms. Jefferson is definitely a skilled writer. She's also able to extend her insiders' knowledge in a clever and creative manner. I like that she makes observations rather than definitive statements. The only thing I was hoping for more of from her was vulnerability.

Dec 27, 2016

Margo Jefferson, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, has penned a book that is part memoir, part cultural critique of American race, class, and gender. She recounts her family's history as part of the "Talented Tenth", the upper-class black society that saw itself as neither black nor white but rather as a "third race". As an "integrationist", Jefferson had a bird's-eye view of the many ideas, philosophies, and methods from her girlhood in the 1950's through the turbulent Civil Rights era to today's social media campaigns. Along the way, the reader catches glimpses of society's contradictions and morals as well as short biographies of the amazing women who were her ancestors. Jefferson writes, near the end of her story, "I won't trap myself into quantifying which matters more, race, or gender, or class."

LPL_DirectorBrad Feb 21, 2016

It's pointless for me to attempt to describe what I found so great about this book. I encourage you to pick up this book and enter Margo Jefferson's world yourself. I cannot speak for her. She writes deftly about race, class, gender, and identity. A must read book from 2015.


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