BASED ON ANECDOTAL, MORE SO THAN EMPIRICAL DATA, WRITINGS ABOUT relations within African American socioeconomic hierarchies have dualistically characterized these as either conflicting or cooperatively uplifting. The conflict model portrays black PMW as an isolated and white-identified population (Frazier 1957; Hare 1965). The movement of upwardly mobile blacks to suburban communities is often cited as proof of this disconnect or disjuncture (Wilson 1978; 1987).
Purveyors of the uplift model note the role educated black professionals have played in the struggle for racial equality in the U. S. (Franklin and Meier 1982; Giddings 1987; Gilkes 1988). Only a handful of studies attend to the varying and sometimes contradictory forms that relationships take among African Americans of different socioeconomic strata (Gaines 1996; Jackson 2000; Taylor 2002).
This project was undertaken in a heterogeneous socioeconomic setting so I could document interactions between low-income African Americans and black PMW. In gathering oral histories it quickly became apparent that the kin networks of these black professionals were the perfect place to look at relations across these boundaries because family members were from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
The majority of the people in my study grew up in low-income households, so interactions across strata frequently occurred within kin networks. Even participants whose parents were college educated or professionally employed had contact with extended kin who were poor or working class. Regina White’s mother, father, aunts, and uncles all worked as household servants for wealthy white families in and around New York City. The par-