Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Picket Fences: Privileges and Peril among the Black Middle Class

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Picket Fences: Privileges and Peril among the Black Middle Class

Article excerpt

Black Picket Fences: Privileges and Peril Among the Black Middle Class, by Mary Pattillo-McCoy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999. 276 pp. $25.00, cloth. Reviewed by Toni A. Gregory, The Fielding Institute for Educational Leadership and Change.

In Black Picket Fences, Mary Pattillo-McCoy, an assistant professor of sociology and African American Studies and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, provides poignant commentary on the inherent duplicity of being Black and middle class in the United States. Crafted from data she collected during three-and-a-half years of ethnographic research, her work is a study of a Black middle-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Central to the book are the experiences of the youth of that community, told through their stories, which bring to life the hopes, dreams, fears, challenges and contradictions of living in a Black middle-class community. Unfortunately, Pattillo-McCoy's largely unsupported commentary overshadows these stories-the major focus of the book-however, once introduced (not until chapter three), the stories are powerful indeed.

Black Picket Fences demonstrates its author's breadth of knowledge about the issues and arguments involved in the study of African American communities, particularly Black middle-class neighborhoods. Pattillo-McCoy's understanding of the complexities of conducting research in and about the black community is evident. Citing much of the primary literature in the field, her treatise on the interplay between race, class, structural inequality and social injustice in Black communities is woven throughout the book. She concludes that inequities and segregation still exist in the nation's middle-class neighborhoods, but points out that Black middle-class neighborhoods are much more diverse in their class distinctions than are White middle-class neighborhoods-that is, they carry a much greater burden of poverty and typically include a higher percentage of poor residents. …

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