Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry

Best Intentions: The Education and Killing of Edmund Perry

by Robert Sam Anson

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An exploration of how Edmund Perry, a 17 year old black honors student from Harlem, was killed soon after graduation by a young white plain clothes policeman in an alleged mugging attempt.


An exploration of how Edmund Perry, a 17 year old black honors student from Harlem, was killed soon after graduation by a young white plain clothes policeman in an alleged mugging attempt.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Disquieting...often poignant" (Time), an "engrossing" (Newsweek) exploration of racial attitudes in America, as illumined by the case of Edmund Perry: a seventeen-year-old black honors student from Harlem who, soon after being graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, perhaps the nation's most prestigious prep school, was killed by a young white plainclothes policeman whom he and a companion allegedly tried to mug.

"Mr. Anson is interested in exploring Edmund Perry's short life, and especially his education — the irony that someone who had already traveled so for would end up lying on a sidewalk so dose to where he had grown up, a cop's bullet in his belly. Perry had not only attended Exeter, he had also done well there, and he had also studied in Spain for a year. He had become friendly with a wide circle of black and white students and with a number of teachers in that distinguished northern New England setting .... How could it happen that someone who spent years in such an environment could come to such an end? The author sought out Perry's mother and father, his friends and former teachers, in Harlem and at Exeter. Their comments are the heart of this well-told, melancholy story — so much praise for such a promising life, so much bewilderment and outrage over its outcome." — Robert Coles, The New York Times Book Review

"Compelling...a portrait of 'cultural schizophrenia' and a detailed account of a teenager who tried, unsuccessfully, to keep a foot in two different worlds — one in a black ghetto, another in an environment characterized by elitist whites who were unknowingly insensitive to his concerns." — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Unfolds like a detective story." — Chicago Sun-Times

"Profoundly disturbing." — Kansas City Star

"Concerned, even-handed and conscientious...The point of Best Intentions challenge the naive assumptions of a system based upon the myth of a magic carpet"

— Los Angeles times Book Review

"A meditation on a serious issue that's also a page-turner."

— The New York times Review of Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The fatal shooting of 17-year-old Edmund Perry by New York City police officer Lee Van Houten in June of 1985 drew national headlines. The officer asserted that he was mugged by Perry and another black youth near Harlem. Subsequently, Edmund's brother Jonah, a Cornell undergraduate, was accused of being the second participant, tried and found not guilty. The case created controversy among blacks and whites alike, for the Perry brothers, raised in the ghetto, were educated at private schools; Edmund, graduated from Philips Exeter, was to attend Stanford University that fall. Anson (Exile, etc.) probes the problems that attended the uprooting of the brothers from a deprived background to the upper-class environment of their schools; and he raises questions as to whether the worlds of black and white in the U.S. are capable of reconciliation. In a profound and disturbing study Anson reaches a troubling conclusion about this case: ``The only villain I had found was something amorphous, not a person or a thing, just a difference called race. It was racenot the fact of it, but the consequences flowing from it . . . '' that relegated the slain Edmund, for one, to the ethics of the street. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (May 20)
Library Journal
Journalist Anson has written a compelling account of the life and death of a Harlem teenager. This black adolescent was different, however. He was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Prep School and had been admitted to Stanford University. When he was killed by a white policeman during an alleged mugging attempt in 1985, public reaction, especially among blacks, blamed the police for yet another needless murder of a young black man, in this case a kind of ``black hope.'' Anson uncovered a much more complex story. Perry was trapped between two worldsthe upper-class, high-expectation milieu of Exeter and the ``streets'' of Harlem. He sold drugs at Exeter and tried to fit into Harlem, in part with street crime. Anson tells this tragic story with great empathy. Highly recommended for most libraries. Anthony O. Edmonds, History Dept., Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Vintage Books ed
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Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.51(d)

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