countdown boutiques-francophones Learn more vpcflyout Furniture All-New Kindle Music Deals Store sports Tools

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$21.29+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on February 8, 2000
In The Promised Land, Nicholas Lemann tells several interwoven tales. One is about Mississippi sharecroppers who migrated to Chicago during the middle decades of the century. Another is about the bungled policies of President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." Binding them together is Mr. Lemann's attempt to understand why the United States has a black underclass that probably lives in greater squalor and desperation than any other people on earth. The book's perspective is the by now standard one that pins most of the blame for black failure on white racism, and it leads to a call for an "ambitious wave of new programs" that will bring the underclass into the American mainstream. Nevertheless, The Promised Land is by no means a simple rehash of the liberal clichés of the 1960s. Mr. Lemann does not gloss over the failures that stemmed from the soft-headed zeal for uplift that characterized the period. At the same time, his accounts of the lives of underclass blacks do not leave an impression of helplessness and victimization so much as one of fecklessness and self-destruction. The author coats his facts with a layer of liberal indulgence, but he has gathered the facts and they are not pretty.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 1, 1999
"The Promised Land" is a fascinating study of the effects, both on the "immigrants" themselves and on America, of the migration of Blacks from the Mississippi Delta to the industrial cities of the North, in this case, specifically Chicago. The book traces the experiences of a group of individuals who made the migration, telling their story through time, beginning with the immigrants and continuing on with the families they built in the North, with a rough time frame of the 1940's - 1970's.
The book comprises 2 basic strengths: the approach to the material and the resulting structure in which the story is told, and the sheer interest of the events themselves and the people who lived them.
The author approaches the story he wishes to tell in two ways: He relates the story of the people themselves, giving these sections of the book an oral history like content, but intermixes the chapters with those based on an analytic, scholarly approach, where the individual strories previously related are woven into the bigger historical picture. The approach works wonderfully, giving the book a structure both readable as a straightforward story of human beings relating their own very personal roles in historical events but also allowing the reader to put these events in a greater historical context, to understand for instance the sad downward slope experienced in the Black working class communities as the years passed. The early immigrants made their way to Black sections of Chicago which, while segregated and relatively poor compared to the White sections, also managed to provide at least the basis of a thriving community, in which work was available and there was a hope of moving up in the world. The comparison of these communities in the 1940's to the boarded up, drug infested no-man's land some of them were to become later is startling.
Some of the resulting questions raised are fascinating, especially in the current environment with the all-out effort to replace welfare with workfare. At it's most extreme is the question raised by Federal Welfare authorities as to whether it is perhaps better to just support people in the Mississippi Delta with welfare, given that the outlay is relatively minor, as opposed to encouraging people to move North. They might improve their lot with better jobs not available in the Delta but with the risk that they will perhaps end up on welfare forcing the authorities to pay out much more in benefits than would be necessary to pay in the Delta with it's significantly lower standard of living.
In the final analysis however, it is the stories of the immigrants which really take center stage and make reading this book such a satisfying experience. In a world of jet planes and instant electronic communications it is hard to imagine to almost biblical migration which took place all by virtue of a scheduled train line, people being transported to a profoundly different world by a day or so of travel, a world which at least initially offered a degree of prosperity and an improvement in ,living standards way beyond that of the Delta they left behind. The fragility of that life in the "promised land" however would become sadly apparent in the mixed experiences the future was to hold for the immigrants and their families and in the sad decline of their communities.
Driven by the disappearance of the Industries and Stockyards whose jobs fueled the great migration in the first place this movement eventually ground to a halt. Victims of both economic and racial segregation, the once dynamic Black working class communities of Chicago became more and more isolated and desolate as jobs became ever scarcer and drugs and welfare took a firmer hold. Those residents who had prospered and could afford to do so left for the suburbs open to them, while those who for whatever reason, whether their own failings or just an inability to keep up with a changing world were left to reside in the inner city in such stark monuments to failed policies as the Robert Taylor homes.
"The Promised Land" captures an episode in American history not likely to be repeated, and does so in a manner which combines the best of both analytic and anecdotal writing styles, driven by the heartfelt and exciting rembrances of the particpants themselves, those who comprised the great migration to the promised land.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 29, 2000
I enjoyed this book a lot also. From slavery to migrating to Chicago, I learned a lot about the African-American experience.This book has shown me the many obstacles that my people have had to overcome and has taught me to be so thankful for those who fought for rights for African-Americans so I would have a better experience than they had growing up in America. It has also shown me why Blacks are still not seen on the same level playing field as Whites today.Even though this book is factual it reads more like a novelin that it includes excerpts about the lives of many Blacks growing up back then.The video series that goes along with this book also adds a personal feel to the novel. This video series is a must for every families video collection.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 28, 2000
"The Promised Land" is a very detailed documentation of the lives certain African Americans that migrated from the South (specifically Clarksdale, Mississippi) to Chicago. Lemann follows these people throughout their lives, from before they left to after they arrived in the North. He recounts the many problmes they encountered as well as the freedoms they received upon reaching Chicago. Although the book is well written and very informative, it can get a little dense, and read more like a history book then as a story. On the whole, however, it was very interesting look at the downside of the promised land.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 8, 1999
This is a brilliant book. Lemann tackles a very daunting subject and presents it in a style that's cogent, humane and easy to understand. Black inner city povery is a decidedly "unsexy" topic. We've all heard the bromides that the government "tried and failed" to solve urban poverty, the problem is just to too intractable to deal with, etc. Lemann, however, makes the issues and characters very clear and accessible. Best of all, his conclusion is a passionate and clear-minded prescription for change -- a great counterpoint to the cynicism of contemporary pundits and policymakers.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 17, 1999
The Promised Land defies the myth of level playing fields in the so-called democracy called America. Slavery, the sharecropping system, Jim Crow, segregation, White violence toward Blacks, and continued social, economic, political and institutional racism display the very foundation upon which this society is built. Lemann challenges readers to deal with this truth and acknowledge privilege, racism, exploitation and victimhood. After reading The Promised Land one has to be mentally warped to continue blaming victims for their plights.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 28, 1999
Lemann's stories of real people in Clarksdale and Chicago are very compelling, really draw the reader in. But his long section on Washington, which frames the nation's response to racism, black poverty, ghetto housing, community organizing and a number of other issues--and why those responses failed--is convoluted, confusing, and poorly written. Throughout the book Lemann uses far too many eight-dollar, academician words when simpler forms would do nicely, and would fit the subject matter better.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 22, 2000
This book followed the lives of about a dozen black men and women, each who migrated to one of three different areas in the US, during the great black migration. The book has details of each persons life starting from before they migrated, all the way untill they had been in the area for a while. The recent publishing date gives you up to date information on each persons whereabouts at this point in time. A very good, worthwhile read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 3, 2000
This was an excellent combination of conveying historical fact with painting the picture by telling the stories of several people and families who lived the history. A fascinating period in history and a great read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 22, 1998
I read this book in school for An African American class. I am an African American and it answered many question Ive always had.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse