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Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  829 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews
Debutante cotillions. Million-dollar homes. Summers in Martha's Vineyard. Membership in the Links, Jack & Jill, Deltas, Boule, and AKAs. An obsession with the right schools, families, social clubs, and skin complexion. This is the world of the black upper class and the focus of the first book written about the black elite by a member of this hard-to-penetrate group.

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Paperback, 406 pages
Published December 22nd 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1999)
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Jalylah
Jul 06, 2008 Jalylah rated it it was ok
what can you say about l.o.g. that isn't self evident. he's pretentious and so is this book but he performs a necessary service for white americans who often don't recognize class distinctions in black communities and, sadly, many of us who mistakenly think that our means, whether modest or middle, are all there is when it comes to black folks. there is more academic work on class distictions from the slave ship on but i wouldn't dismiss this book.
Tracey
Feb 07, 2012 Tracey rated it liked it
This was a very enlightening look at a subset of culture I didn't know existed. Sport stars and entertainers don't count -- wealthy, privileged black Americans have contributed greatly to the fabric of our country, yet the media rarely features them.

I actually read this some years ago, but mention it now because I just finished Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, and there were a couple of references to the black society clubs Our Kind of People details, so I glanced at this again. I a
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Lauren Cecile
Mar 30, 2016 Lauren Cecile rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Most of the world is unaware there is a black aristocracy, a privileged class. This was an interesting, necessary and well-researched book, although the author's tone was a little pretentious.
Kim
Feb 11, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed reading this book. It's a fascinating study of affluent black Americans--the blacks we rarely hear about unless they are celebrities. Graham presents a world that I'd heard my parents talk about but that I never experienced. I grew up in a working class/middle class neighborhood. I didn't know anything about debutant cotillions or summers in Martha's Vineyard until I was in college and was invited as a guest. I read the book as research for a novel I am writing, and I am so glad I ...more
Dawniece
Aug 23, 2010 Dawniece rated it it was ok
One of the most painful books I have ever read.
Mara
Oct 12, 2012 Mara rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I got my hands on this book by accident, it was in a box of romance and fantasy books a friend sent me from abroad. However, I did give it a chance, despite my complete lack of knowledge on the subject and on the American class system in general.

The author's writing style could use a lot of improvement. Many parts of the book were tedious to read, thanks to constant repetition. Also, the author often came off as smug and pretentious, sometimes envious of his peers that were better off, sometimes
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Shenell Houston
Mar 20, 2012 Shenell Houston rated it it was ok
This book was written to give America the inside scoop of the "Black Elite of America," something that is rarely shown or heard of. The author begins by introducing us to his whole reasoning behind the book. Graham is a self-professed "Black Elite" and was sparked to write this book after meeting with a very successful, wealthy, and influential African American business man who asked how he should go about ensuring his daughters had a "black experience." You see, this man felt his luxury had onl ...more
Vivienne Neal
Oct 31, 2010 Vivienne Neal rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, which focuses primarily on wealthy African American who are rarely talked about or seen in the mainstream media. Looking back historically to the rise of the middle and upper class Blacks, along with their pettiness and generosity, the reader gets a excellent understanding as to why there is such a disconnect among African Americans today. With all of the trials and tribulations that African Americans have had to face since being brought to this country, namely Jim Crow laws, ...more
Lisa
Apr 22, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok
This book was a chosen book club read. I thought the topic of the elite black in American history would be interesting and a subject that is not often discussed. Although I found some of the information worth while, it read more like a dissertation or senior thesis. There were many names and facts, and I found myself thumbing through chapters. For me, the book was short on substance. Maybe there just wasn't enough personal reflection or life stories that could keep me engaged.
Cindy
Mar 18, 2011 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Very interesting. Paper bag and ruler test. (The skin color and straight hair!) Becomes a name dropping roster. Didn't finish it.
Raven
Jun 20, 2011 Raven rated it liked it
Not a realistic account but still gave basic good info of what I have experienced
Afrijewel
Mar 19, 2010 Afrijewel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Afrijewel by: Came across at Upham's Corner Library in MA
This is worthy of a bookclub discussion. I stumbled across this one while I was at the Upham's Corner Library in MA. I saw it there a couple of times. I decided to peruse through it and found that it might open my eyes and brain to another world I was not entirely knowledgable about. So with that said if you want to get an inside view of the so-called Black Elite/Old Guard/Black Greek and so forth...try reading "Our Kind of People". I think the opening to this Non-Fiction outline is well written ...more
Anna
May 05, 2013 Anna rated it did not like it
I can see it in the beginning when a black doctor, lawyer, etc needed people to socialize, network with, etc. But what is so great about black people aping the worst characteristics of the white oligarchy? Light skin, straight hair, money,jockeying to get into exclusive clubs. It's so shallow and meaningless unless status and money are what you think is most important in this life.

I'm all for success. But the content of one's character is what counts in my opinion.

the book is tedious and not wel
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Ari
Aug 14, 2014 Ari rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
IQ (selfish quote since it's about my hometown) "But even with a legacy of such well-heeled black businessmen and even with its history of serving as the hometown for the first three blacks-Oscar DePriest, Arthur Mitchell, and William Dawson-to serve in a post-Reconstruction U.S. Congress, Chicago and its black elite remain a conundrum when students from other cities with large black populations analyze Chicago's inability to elect local black leaders with any consistency. Unlike Atlanta, Washin ...more
Msladydeborah
Feb 26, 2013 Msladydeborah rated it really liked it
Our Kind of People:Inside America's Black Upper Class
I really enjoyed reading this particular book because a lot of historical information was provided that is not often shared among African Americans properly. This book clears up a lot of misconceptions and also provides some interesting food for thought.
Aiesha
Jan 18, 2012 Aiesha rated it it was ok
This book is good for an introductory course on Blackness and Class if paired with other works from varying viewpoints and throughout Black folks' time on this continent. I won't comment on the author specifically, except to say, "meh!"
Octavia
Dec 30, 2010 Octavia rated it it was ok
certainly well written... sad state is that colorism still exists... I am with Benilde Little when she wrote... "where are the regular black people";)
Ebony Jones-Kuye
Aug 29, 2015 Ebony Jones-Kuye rated it really liked it
This was a good read! One side of me is saying why is this worth discussing? Another side of me is saying folks need to know that African-Americans have an Upper-Class society that are professionals and not just in sports or entertainment. We have families that have generations of educators and business leaders. Just like White women have the Junior League, Black women have the Links, Inc. and many other organizations that have been around for years. I just hate that there is a divide in the Afr ...more
Ami
Mar 13, 2014 Ami rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: African Americans, also everyone else
Recommended to Ami by: MaganLoren
Well...What can I say...

Our Kind of People. It was about the little known Black culture in America based around the Old Guard, or basically Old Money. These black people are very wealthy, and have a close-knit and extremely selective society based around the lightness of ones skin and the wealth of ones family, as well as their racial purity and social heritage. It talked all about getting to know the highest regarded Black personalities, and being successful and in selective cotillions and club
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Lydell
Aug 19, 2011 Lydell rated it liked it
For me, the book's strength lies in its oral history interviews.
Coralie
Aug 23, 2013 Coralie rated it liked it
This book introduced me to the world of the "Old Guard" black aristocracy. Being from rural Vermont, I don't know much about any aristocracy, black or white. This was an introduction to the history of black people with "old money". There are some established black upper crust families who earned their fortunes with businesses that supplied the needs of other black people during segregation and Jim Crow. Once these families became established as the black elite, they worked hard to make sure thei ...more
Bookfanatic
Dec 15, 2013 Bookfanatic rated it liked it
An excellent book about a rarely talked about aspect of American life. This should be required reading in high schools and universities. This is a good book for a book club. I'm not Black so this book gave me a decent understanding of the lives of certain upper class Black American families. The Black elite portrayed in this book seem very self-contained and private, and almost unwilling to reveal itself to outsiders. It's interesting, but disturbing also given the Black on Black prejudice discu ...more
Jil Ross
Dec 15, 2014 Jil Ross rated it it was amazing
I'd seen Mr. Graham years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was inspired to purchase the book. I've seen Graham on several telecast and have grown to appreciate his observations through the lens that he's experienced life. Ironically he was the speaker at my daughters graduation at PACE Uni. 2014 and was even more inspiring. This book give a rare historical look at the Black Upperclass.
Dahlia
Aug 12, 2013 Dahlia rated it liked it
This book is necessary to thwart the typical stereotypes of African-Americans in media. The saddest and most pathetic show on tv is "the first 48 hours." This show is lazy and typical in that it exploits the ills of the poorest people who happen to also represent the largest portion of poor blacks; foregoing statistics showing that the majority of blacks in the US are middle class and above. The blacks represented in this book are the same folks that are powerful, hidden, degrading to darker ton ...more
Michelle
Nov 17, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it
The book was great until I realized that many of the people the author talked about were snobs. I love the fact that children were exposed to many of the finer things in life but not at the expense of growing up and looking down on others who did not have that same privilege.
SB
Feb 27, 2013 SB rated it liked it
Otis Graham spent 6 years interviewing the wealthiest black families in America and combined that with his own experience growing up on the fringe of what he terms the "Old Guard" or "Black elite" for this book. I don't know that I've ever read any book about any elite group (elite folks, sure, but not an entire system). Really enjoyed some of the history and the glimpse into a world so different from my own, but I did get bored with it. I loved the stories but found that there were too many tim ...more
Audrey Jenkins
Feb 27, 2016 Audrey Jenkins rated it really liked it
Recommended by a friend in 2001 as a best-seller, and I was shocked however not surprised. This will remain a classic in the African-American struggle to overcome oppression as a race. I'm hoping a few generations later for a sequel.
Laronica Conway
Jun 14, 2015 Laronica Conway rated it really liked it
I read this book years ago and much of it still resonates with me today. A great insider's look at a lifestyle that not many blacks participated in...especially not those from the south. It's a fascinating read.
Zach
May 27, 2007 Zach rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: zachslibrary
This book is excellent for anyone who may be curious about something they know little about. The Black Upper Class in America does exist. It has existed for a VERY long time. Yet they are rarely seen (entertainers do NOT count) and even more rarely discussed. Yet it is an entire culture that is self sustained, self-aware and intent on self preservation. Furthermore, it is a part of American culture that will employ drastic measures to maintain itself and is capable of a form discrimination that ...more
Zoë
Jun 20, 2007 Zoë rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-class
In his book Lawrence Otis Graham presents a three hundred and ninety-six page chronicle of the history of elite black society in the United States. The history of the Black upper class, Graham writes is, “…a world that is filled with irony and conflict. This book was an opportunity to reveal a rarely discussed aspect of American history. It was an opportunity to capture the stories and lives of people… who have lived at the boundary of two worlds and been misunderstood by both.” As Graham write ...more
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“And this is why I have concluded that although every racial, ethnic, and religious group in the United States claims to want a piece of the American dream, there is no group that apologizes more for its success than black people.” 1 likes
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