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

Overview

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.

Author and TV commentator Lawrence Otis Graham, one of the nation's most prominent spokesmen on race and ...

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

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Overview

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.

Author and TV commentator Lawrence Otis Graham, one of the nation's most prominent spokesmen on race and class, spent six years interviewing the wealthiest black families in America. He includes historical photos of a people that made their first millions in the 1870s. Graham tells who's in and who's not in the group today with separate chapters on the elite in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Nashville, and New Orleans. A new Introduction explains the controversy that the book elicited from both the black and white communities.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Post
“A provocative and important study of the world of priviliged African Americans.”
Los Angeles Magazine
“Captivating...From debutante cotillions and the right vacation spots to who’s in and who’s not.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060984380
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2000
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 230,388
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

The author of fourteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Our Kind of People, and a contributing editor for Reader's Digest, Lawrence Otis Graham's work has also appeared in the New York Times, Essence, and The Best American Essays. He lives with his wife in Manhattan and Chappaqua, New York.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2007

    Nice job

    While Graham's account of the black elite might have upset many African Americans because it shows the divisiveness of our people instead of the solidarity, the book does shed light on an area of Black history many were obviously unaware. Graham exudes a fondness for some of the people in the book with whom he is familiar however, it is no different than a 'non-elite' would feel for his or her 'big mama' or 'madea.' Some of these are the people with whom he grew up and who he grew to love. Well-deserved respect and admiration should be expected, if not desired. People who are upset with the book may well be because in reading it, they realize their exclusion. While not apart of the elite, I found it fascinating and was proud to know people of African decent were doing so well during times when others 'found it kinda hard.' Fascination continues as I am able to drive through Mississippi and see the exit for the Piney Woods School and imagine the rich history and culture that must adorn the halls. While I am not apart of the black elite and with my milk chocoalate skin will never be, I am neither discouraged nor saddened not to be apart of the group. The reader must not fail to remember the essence of a good book -- to be able to transfer you to a world you might not otherwise have been able to explore. Only if the reader keeps that in mind can Graham's book truly be appreciated.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    As a Black middle class American I really didn't need to read this.

    I am thinking maybe this book was written for those are not middle class, Black Americans.

    If you are not a Black American and interested in Black American culture, then this book will be great for you. Of if you are a member of the Black American elite and would like a neat, little journal of your collective experiences, then this book might be for you.

    I was not very impressed only because as a middle class Black American I am all too familiar with the information in this book. And the information is not presented with any particular critique or opinion. I was quite bored and wish I had not purchased this book.

    Caveat: the author presents the information rather unsentimentally and without judgment. It is more or less a "just the facts" type of memoir.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2010

    A wonderfully-informing book about slice of African-Americana rarely examine

    The book is very informative and inspiring. The stories inside this book are great American stories of triumph over tall odds. All too often the success stories of African Americans not involved in athletics or entertainment are overlooked. The book "Our Kind Of People" reveals the many success stories of African Americans who utilized their intellects to achieve success in America.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2006

    THE TRUTH STINGS!

    This book has been out for quite some time and it created a lot of negative emotion from those in the black community who THOUGHT that all black people grew up just like they did - struggling. They were {gasp} stunned to learn that some black folks grew up with white house servants, private lakes in the backyard, summer vacations around the world, and multi-degreed professionals as parents. Well...those of us who were able to experience a privileged upbringing certainly WILL NOT apologize for the hard-work and high goals of our parents and grandparents in ensuring our lifestyle was affluent. The reason some black people have not achieved what others have is because many have adopted a mentality of inferiority and mediocrity. No one dares speak about it and incur the wrath of those who know darn well that their parents 'settled' in life. GOOD JOB ON SHARING A DIFFERENT SLICE OF BLACK HISTORY, LAWRENCE!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2002

    Not My Kind of People

    I am quite upset that I spent my money on this trash! I find the "elite" people in this book to be very wordly, materialistic, and superficial. I would not want to be associated with these people nor have my kids around these people children. Furthermore, I find it very hard to believe that these people give to back to the black community at all since they do not want any association with the average working class black person. Eventhough I am a graduate of one of the elite colleges mentioned in the book (and am currently pursuing a graduate degree), I still would find it very hard to relate to any of these people in the book. A professional is not someone who has a college degree, but a professional is someone who has the right attitude. It is an attitude of excellence in whatever work he/she is called to do. Furthermore, a real elite is someone who surrendered their life to God and committed to doing His will, a person that is confident yet not cocky, a person that can relate to men of both high and low status, and lastly, he/she is a person that understands that the true worth of a person is not the car he/she drives or amount of money he/she has in the bank account, but the size of their heart. New Orleans,La.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2001

    What's the difference?

    After reading this book [twice], I found little difference between the African American (AA) and European cultures. However, I found the lack of love for one's self amongst the AA, facinating. What was the criteria for admission into these organizations?...money?...color?...European in appearance? The book indicates that shallow values permeates all of society. When you look at European vs. African American social groups, the conclusion is ...what is the difference? Is the study of Eugenics coming back?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2000

    Love this book

    Informative; not too biased for or aginst the upper class. I appreciate this book. More people need to know all aspects of the black community.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2000

    Wonderful Insight

    Finally a book has been written about the Black Upper Class. A class some people don't even think exists. I did enjoy the book but at times it did portray the black upper class in a negative light.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    Educational & Entertaining Read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    An interesting look at the life unknown

    Graham did an excellent job of going in depth of the mysterious life of the Black elite class. He drops a lot of names in the book, some individuals I didn't care to know. Overall, the book was a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    So sad

    I really didn't like this book at all. The author, throughout the book, lists titles and acolades for every person that he quoted and I thought that was completely unneccesary. He also gave too many details about vacations, status (in terms of various professions), and socioeconomic elitism that made the book a chore to read. I would not recommend this book to anyone unless you want a surface perspective of the life of 'our kind of people'. I prefer a description and history of this group of so called elite black people and how there exlcusion of lower-class black people henders the progress of the black community rather help it. I am a professional and I am not in any of the groups described in the book nor would I ever choose to be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2006

    not all african americans are poor

    I read this book and found it very informative. I never realize there were so many organizations involved with this class. The author did extenstive research and traveled to many places to make this book a reality. However, it did sadden me that some of these people but not all looked down on anyone who wasn't equal to them. I also learned that Camp Atwater, a camp I had sent my daughter to a few years ago, was once a camp for well to do African Americans. They have since changed this practice which did upset alot of people. Even if I hit the lottery and became a multi-millionaire I would never be accepted by them nor would I care to. After reading this book I have a better understanding of why some African Americans with money act the way they do. With all that said it is a must read to see how 'our kind' with old money live.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2004

    Repetitive

    I realize that Mr. Graham is not responsible for the attitudes of some mentioned/interviewed, however he does nothing to condemn it and it leaves you with a fair conclusion as to why he wrote this book: he has been left out, yet still yearns to be accepted. Some of the organizations mentioned I had never heard of, but using some deductive reasoning and the knowledge I do have-- I can concur that much of this information is outdated. Anyone who knows anything about the AKAs, Delts, etc. of today know that you don't have to be light-bright with 'acceptable' pedigree to get in (Thank God!). It was almost laughable how every page seemed to be a shout-out list of who's who and possible wannabes. I was also amused (and saddened) at how he reinerates the so-called elite's position as being 'authentically black' because interracial marriage is looked down upon as are degrees from white schools. How hypocritical of a group of people who waste much of their energy obessing over light color and straight hair. Again, the author did not so much as question that blatant contridiction. The book goes so far as to suggest during the short periods it does focus on 'less fotrunate' blacks that they are simply jealous. As a former member of the 'less fortunate' label, I can truthfully say I held nor do I currently hold any jealous towards well-to-do blacks. I think everyone is striving in some way for better standards of living, however the exclusive 'you're not me' attitude of some who have made it make them easy targets for critism-- another subject he did not fully touch on. Overall, very disappointing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    I found out things I did not know before!!!

    The book was very informative. I always knew there was a black upper middle class but not in detail. The author did a great job writing this book. For instance, when he mentions he had nose job, that was a clear sign how racism and discrimination can affect someone. In the book, it affects a lot of people (not that I want to give it away). I recommend it to anybody interested in history.Period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2004

    Great read...

    After taking an introductory Africana Studies course I was given this book. Some things I learned prior to reading, but the majority of it was all foreign. The author did a good job of capturing his battle between being apart of the black elite and trying to maintain a sense of where he came from. This is the perfect gift to anyone interested in what goes on between the elite class and those involved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2003

    A struggle for me to finish

    First, let me say I am proud and happy to read and learn about the black upper class, when the history books would have all believe blacks were poor slummers and coutry bumpkins. But what I cannot stand, is the outright discrimination upper class blacks imposed upon all other blacks. Really, what made them any different than whites. Both groups thought they were better than and snubbed their noses at a majority of blacks. What is the point of having an upper class of blacks, if they do not elevate the race, the whole race? Many people would believe these old fashioned prejudices and slights do not exist anymore but I know they do. I applaud the book for showing a side of blacks people rarely see but it is also devastating to realize with so much power and money, litte to none was done to help other struggling blacks

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2003

    Very insightful work

    When I first saw this book in passing, I flipped through it and knew I had to have it. It took nearly a year, but I tracked it down and read it. I must say, it opened my eyes to things I never imagined were going on. Initially, I was somewhat put off by the exclusivity shown by the upper-class groups like the Boule and Links, but at the same time, I saw the point- nurture your own and set the groundwork for a solid future for your family. It happens all over the world, not just in the Black upper-class. I commend Graham on 'blowing the whistle' on these groups, many of which his family has close ties with. I have seen that most of the complaints have been based on finding out what one is being left out of. Instead of complaining about not having what the Blacks from this book have, we should use this book as a catalyst to achieve higher goals.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    Insightful, Informative but......

    very HYPOCRITICAL in my opinion. Overall, I must say this book provided a lot of insight into the 'underground world' of the black middle and upper-middle classes. It's something I think many outside the black community (& many within as well) probably never knew nor willing to accept exists. Though I knew of many of these exclusive organizations (i.e Jack & Jill), from childhood, it was insightful to learn the history behind others. It's was also very informative (historically) to learn of the NUMEROUS elite black families across the nation and their contributions to the black community & world. Yet, my only gripe with this book is the fact that Graham seems to contradict himself on the issue of racism. On one hand Graham writes of the widespread reluctance, by whites, to grant middle & upper-class black families the same priviledges into their world of country clubs & societies (simply because of skin tone & race). And the bitterness and resentment felt (by upper class blacks) because of this. YET, it seems, Graham turns right back around and describes how the black middle & upper classes sometimes used these SAME, ignorant, stereotypical, internal racially divisive tactics towards one another!!! From the brown paper bag to private clubs. In other words, why use the same tools of descrimination towards members of your own race. I guess if you can't join them then copy them and create your own world BUT also judge others w/the same snobbery attitude. SAD!!! Actually, I just laughed most of the time b/c a part of me felt the information & stories were somewhat too 'outdated.' Though the family names & organizations still exist today, the criteria & selectivity seemed very early 20th century attitude, w/regards to skin tone & the 'necessity' of joining the right club, church, frat/sorority, univerisity, etc. Despite this, I like the book. It's a subject matter you don't normally read nor hear about on a regular basis. Very refreshing to see and read a different side of the African American community. It was very well written. I would like to see Mr. Graham write a second volume maybe broadening his historical scope of black families in more major as well as smaller American cities. Overall, I give this book 4 stars only b/c of the reverse discrimination and contradictory issue of interal racism.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2002

    Finally,...The Truth Revealed!

    Fascinating read. Exposes internal racism and gives insight to a subculture that exists within the Black race. 'Well done' Mr. Graham.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    Good Read

    I think a need has finally been addressed with this book. Black people, white people, all people need to realize that these powerful and educated black people exist and have for a long time. I think it is time as someone else said that this country knows that our 'elite' do not consist entirely of athletes and entertainers, but statesmen, doctors, lawyers and businessmen that have been successful long before Michael Jordon and Tiger Woods was even a thought.

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