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

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  642 ratings  ·  81 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, 448 pages
Published December 22nd 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1999)
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Tracey
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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Jalylah
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.
Mara
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
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
Kim
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
Lisa
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.
Dawniece
One of the most painful books I have ever read.
Afrijewel
Mar 19, 2010 Afrijewel rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Vivienne Neal
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
Ari
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
Ami
Mar 13, 2014 Ami rated it 4 of 5 stars
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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Cindy
Very interesting. Paper bag and ruler test. (The skin color and straight hair!) Becomes a name dropping roster. Didn't finish it.
Lydell
For me, the book's strength lies in its oral history interviews.
Coralie
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
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
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
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
SB
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
Zach
May 27, 2007 Zach rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Shane
I was reminded of this book I'd read years ago, because it's Black History Month in the United States, and this book is a part of black history that's not often told.
Danny Jefferson
This is a very interesting read regarding Black America's Bourgeoisie'! It's as if I know the characters personally! :)
Lauren
Great reading about the affluent black social clubs, camps, schools and other aspects of the lifestyle
Edgar
I read this book way back in my high school days, and I thought that it said much more that it exposed in words. Being from Africa, you seem to get only the negative side of the stories and information about African Americans. You are bent to believe that all the do is play basket ball, sing,act, do stand-up comedy...and other arts of the sort. The book actually communicates a different message. You learn that there are so many African Americans that have contributed towards what America is toda ...more
Jennifer
I was relatively unacquainted with much beyond HBCUs, so this was eye-opening in many ways. I tried to read this book too much at once, because it became quite competitive and like one big name drop after a while. Yet I kept reading, maybe because I was reading it with my staff as professional development, and also because I was intrigued.

I found it shocking, and sad, that the Black elite are so disrespectful to one another across groups, and seemingly completely unaware of those who are not wit
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Duane
Nov 13, 2014 Duane marked it as to-read
After reading his recent article in the Washing Post, this should be interesting
Eric
I read this book first while in college. I felt that in provided an interesting perspective on a sub-culture within in the African American community. While I can't say that I agreed with the contentions set forth in the book, it provided some incite on why some people view things as they do. I a re-reading the book now as I am directing the play Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, which largely focuses on skin color and class within the black community. Though many of the notions presented in the ...more
Anna
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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Jetamors
I thought this was a very interesting book. To a certain extent it was hamstrung by the fact that Graham is a member of the community that he writes about here, but at the same time, it seems obvious that someone not of this community would not have had nearly as much access. I felt that the last chapter, about "passing", felt rather out of place; instead of being specifically about the upper class, like the rest of the book, instead it was or could be about very light-skinned black people of al ...more
Saundra
The controversy that comes with this book I find is interesting. The author, it seems to me, has taken a brave step in writing this book and he's examined a part of society and revealed it for all to see. And here he is examining a part of society that is not uaually talked about--upper class blacks. Class systems are usually discussed freely it seems in many societies, but in America, we add the "race" factor, and here we have the issue at hand. I enjoyed reading this book.
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