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The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America
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The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  317 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A New York Times bestseller, the groundbreaking authoritative history of the migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. A definitive book on American history, The Promised Land is also essential reading for educators and policymakers at both national and local levels.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1991)
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Teddee
Review: It gets a bit confusing because of the breadth of material covered and the not always chronological presentation of events, but it does provide a good flavor nonetheless. Strength of this book is weaving together broad historical trends and bringing us to the 1950s showing us the massive impact of the great migration, and showing the direct connection of this migration to today’s intractable ghetto conditions. Lemann is a journalist and appears to present the history accurately and fairl ...more
Michael
This was a surprisingly lengthy and dense book; it took me the better part of a week to read it. The font is tiny, and it is full of policy and politics, as well as narratives about the lives of the people it describes. I'm giving it four stars because parts of it were rather dry. Overall, though, I'm very glad I read it.

A week or two ago, I was watching a video on Upworthy about the gun violence in Chicago, where--literally--hundreds of mostly young and black people die each year. I've only be
...more
Eric_W
Bill Kauffman turns the meaning of lib ral and conservative upside down in America First: Its History Culture and Politics. He suggests that an examination of the history of isolationist and non-interventionist movements reveals them to be closely tied to the much maligned voice of the populists, a voice he says reveals the true nature of the" silent majority", a movement that owes much to George Washington and the founding fathers who desperately feared "foreign entanglements;" the messianic im ...more
Jo Stafford
This is a very informative look at the lives of African Americans who participated in the Great Migration from the South to the North. Lemann focuses on three people from Clarksdale, Mississippi who moved to Chicago, so the book is narrower than its subtitle suggests. This focus allows Lemann to examine in detail the urban policies of successive Chicago city governments, particularly those of long-term mayor Richard Daley. He also revisits Clarksdale to discuss the changes that have taken place ...more
Kate
Jul 27, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in cities, race in America, or Chicago
Recommended to Kate by: An interview I read where David Simon suggested reporters should
Shelves: favoritereads
Very readable history about how the mechanization of cotton picking, and in turn the end of the economic viability of the sharecropping system, pushed millions of African Americans from the south to the big cities of the north after WWII.
The book focuses on a number of people from the Mississippi Delta region and their journeys north to Chicago, as well as how Chicago was transformed by the arrival of so many impoverished people. The story also weaves in the history of the civil rights movement,
...more
Ben
Aug 16, 2007 Ben rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Other than the 1960s riots, and the evacuation of ethnic whites from rust belt cities, the "Great Black Migration" is widely unknown to Americans who are not black. I got this book years ago for a class in college, and I didn't read it back then, of course, but I was rummaging through old stuff and found it, and read it. And it was like a book version of a PBS miniseries. Very well crafted and informative, with compelling narratives all the way round. It made me feel 1) kind of mad that I knew s ...more
Christian
An excellent book on a fascinating subject. Many Americans forget that our country hosted such a massive human population shift, and the effects of the migration are still clearly felt today.

As a note, I read this as part of an urban history class taught by Vincent Cannato, and every book on the syllabus was an great read. Be sure to check out the newest book to cover the subject: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration.
Bibliophile
I first read Nicholas Lemann’s excellent The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America many years ago and at the time it was a revelation to me, in its unsparing account of the self-interested machinations of the white political elite in Washington, as well as its look at how cotton culture in the South indelibly marked race relations in the North of the United States.

Re-reading it recently, in light of the 2008 Presidential election, made me think about how certain thi
...more
Frank Stein
Lemann doesn't add much original research in this book, and his narratives of individual migrants quickly become repetitive and confusing farragos of drugs, unemployment, and dysfunction, but his story of the Washington battles over the Great Society programs is second to none. His discussion of the disastrous Community Action Program alone makes the book worthwhile.

His treatment of these programs, as befits a journalist, is very evenhanded, conceding the ineradicable dysfunctions of ghetto comm
...more
Scott
My seminar on place, poverty, and social policy gives me the opportunity to re-read this wonderful book every year. Lemann traces the experiences of a group of black sharecroppers, who - like tens of thousands of others - leave Mississippi for Chicago in the early part of the 20th Century. He masterfully weaves the lives of these migrants with the history of the Jim Crow South and Chicago's own brand of institutionalized racism. The great migration north is one of the most important stories in o ...more
Rkutler
There is a newer book on this subject, but this one was highly recommended by a friend. One of the best discussions I’ve had with my book groups came from reading this book about the massive migration North resulting from the mechanization of cotton farming between 1940-1970. One of the main reasons to read the book now is to try to understand the continuing "debate over the root causes of the persistence of an underclass." - Roz (quotation from publisher's summary)
Cynthia Karl
This book written in the early 1990's traces the black migration to Chicago from Mississippi and is a fascinating read. Lemann uses three or four different families to trace what happened when the cotton picking machine made sharecropper labor in the cotton fields obsolete. He also covers very well the public programs instituted to relieve the ghettos, most of which did not work very well and he explains why the programs did not work well.
Linnet
More about the black migration from the south . . . this book focuses more on government programs, and the positive and negative aspects for the people who made that move. Interesting that he tells the story of three people, too, as in the Warmth of Other Suns. The main difference: this is the voice of a white male 20 years ago. WOS is the voice of a young black woman today.
Megan
I love history. I read this book to understand how the various communities on the south side of Chicago developed into their current incarnations. It includes several personal histories of individuals who moved to Chicago from the south after the mechanization of farming to seek employment. There is also a heavy emphasis on the history of the Chicago Housing Authority.
Annie
I read this fascinating book in college. It reads like a novel and explains how our cities, like Chicago, became racially diverse - and segregated. It also discusses Washington's policies and their effect on the newly urban migrants.
Kris
If you are looking to have a better understanding of the great black migration, this is the classic work on the subject. The problems that emerged at the time are the problems that we still face in our urban areas across the country.
Ayne Ray
A riveting account of the mass exodus of African Americans to the north during the middle part of the 20th century and the resulting cultural shift it created. An example of nonfiction at its most intriguing and finest.
Erin
Marvelous. Based on interviews with a few generations of families who moved from the South to the North. A necessary, clear, compelling history and perspective on America's urban landscape.
Patrick
A very interesting book, very readable. Does a good job in explaining how the situation we currently face in our cities developed, and why LBJ's Great Society initiatives never went anywhere.
Jessica
This is by far one of the best books that I have ever read. The personal stories put the political happenings into a very real life, obtainable context. I recommend this book to everyone!
Olderworker
Interesting, though at times very difficult to follow. The author filled the book with so much different information it was hard to keep it all straight.
Scott Ford
A great history of African-American migration from the Deep South to urban centers in the North during the first half of the 20th century. Loved this book.
Carolyn
The greatest book I ever read about the Great Migration of African-Americans in the United States. Ranks up there with the epic history of Moses.
Stacey
I recall 3 sections - first more personal and historical, second more policy, and third back to the personal.
Meg Petersen
This book was very well researched and well written. I will be thinking about its implications for a while.
Patricia
Nov 09, 2008 Patricia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in black/african-american history
I'm still reading it... but so far it's made me see just how much my generation takes for granted.
Val
Dec 22, 2008 Val marked it as to-read
Recommended to Val by: Tracy Weekley
Tracy, if you ever wonder where this book went, you let me borrow it in 2003...
Mark Feltskog
A nifty and readable piece of journalism and social history.
Mike
Must read if you want to understand American History
Sarah Rice
new appreciation for LBJ have I.
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