Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman

Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman

Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman

Tomorrow's Tomorrow: The Black Woman

Synopsis

Tomorrow's Tomorrow is a pioneering sociological study of black girls growing up in the city. The author, in a substantial new introduction, considers what has changed and what has remained constant for them since the book was first published in 1971. Joyce A. Ladner spent four years interviewing, observing, and socializing with more than a hundred girls living in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. She was challenged by preconceived academic ideas and labels and by her own past as a black child in rural Mississippi. Rejecting the white middle-class perspective of "deviant" behavior, she examined the expectations and aspirations of these representative black girls and their feelings about parents and boyfriends, marriage, pregnancy, and child-rearing. Ladner asked what life was like in the urban black community for the "average" girl, how she defined her roles and behaviors, and where she found her role models. She was interested in any significant disparity between aspirations and the resources to achieve them. To what extent did the black teenager share the world of her white peers? If the questions were searching, the conclusions were provocative. According to Ladner, "The total misrepresentation of the Black community and the various myths which surround it can be seen in microcosm in the Black female adolescent."

Excerpt

Joyce A. Ladner

I grew up in a deeply segregated South where young black girls and boys were not encouraged to dream that they would excel in one of the professions beyond teaching or preaching or occasionally becoming a nurse in one of the segregated institutions. I had grown up in an era that I once dubbed the "Emmett Till generation" because it was in 1955 that this fourteen-year-old boy near my own age was lynched in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman twice his age. Three years later Mack Charles Parker would be dragged from the Poplarville, Mississippi, jail and lynched for allegedly raping a white woman from Hattiesburg, my hometown. Over the years the Jet Magazine cover photograph of Emmett Till's grotesque body after it was pulled from the Tallahatchie River would haunt me and countless black youths of my generation who eventually found their places among the ranks of black student civil rights activists beginning to stage sit-ins in restaurants in 1960; to desegregate buses, train stations, and airports in 1961; and to organize voter registration drives, boycotts, and the like from 1961 to the late sixties.

Against this backdrop, I moved in the summer of 1964 from my native Mississippi to begin graduate study for a doctorate in sociology at Washington University. Over the next four years I was to study with Lee Rainwater, who became my dissertation advisor, and with Alvin Gouldner, Irving Horowitz, Charles Valentine, Jules Henry, David Pittman, and others. I spent the next four years working as a research assistant on a six-year study of social problems in public housing. The site of the research was the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project, which had acquired a reputation for being one of the most problem- ridden public housing projects in the country. At its capacity, it housed ten thousand residents on about forty acres near . . .

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