Graham an African-American attorney went undercover as a busboy at an all-white Connecticut country club and wrote about the experience first in New York magazine and then in Member of the Club his 1996 book of essays. Now he switches his attention from the white to the black elite. Graham spent six years researching the history of the African-American upper crust and this is both a through work of social history and a thoughtful appraisal of his own place in the black social hierarchy. Graham makes clear that the black elite has always been strongly shaped by the peculiar intertwined American preoccupation with color and class noting that in the past most members of the elite they were “superior to other black and whites” Stressing the importance of surrounding themselves with “like-minded people.”
The black elite enrolled their children in certain social clubs wich were training grounds for the social graces and created the foundation of a black old-boy network. Graham stops short of offering an apology for behavior that is hard to characterize as anything that snobbish (he himself had a nose job) when he was 26 so that he would have less “Negroid” look) But does bemoan a dwindling interest in tradition and he suggests that it wasn’t such a bad thing to grow in the 1960’s and 70’s without the “sense of anger” and dissatisfaction the rest of black America” expressed in those years. Graham has produced a book that casts an unblinking eye on America’s black elite, cataloguing its achievement while critically analyzing its shortcomings it is a must read by anyone interested in African-American history and the impact of idea’s about social class on our society.
This article was published by Publishers Weekly, 1998- 12-14
Please show your support on 18 April 2013 6:30pm at Augusta Richmond County Public Library located on 823 Telfair St. Augusta, GA 30901
Thomas Patterson will facilitate “Our Kind Of People’ Inside Of America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham.