Cover image for Black picket fences : privilege and peril among the Black middle class
Black picket fences : privilege and peril among the Black middle class
Pattillo, Mary E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 276 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F548.9.N4 P38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Black Picket Fences is a stark, moving, and candid look at a section of America that is too often ignored by both scholars and the media: the black middle class. The result of living for three years in "Groveland," a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, sociologist Mary Pattillo-McCoy has written a book that explores both the advantages and the boundaries that exist for members of the black middle class. Despite arguments that race no longer matters, Pattillo-McCoy shows a different reality, one where black and white middle classes remain separate and unequal.

"An insightful look at the socio-economic experiences of the black middle class. . . . Through the prism of a South Side Chicago neighborhood, the author shows the distinctly different reality middle-class blacks face as opposed to middle-class whites." -- Ebony

"A detailed and well-written account of one neighborhood's struggle to remain a haven of stability and prosperity in the midst of the cyclone that is the American economy." -- Emerge

Author Notes

Mary Pattillo-McCoy is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This book is the product of a three-year ethnographic study of Groveland, a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Sociologist Patillo-McCoy challenges the myth that a thriving black middle class has relocated to white suburban neighborhoods, abandoning the black underclass in inner-city wastelands. She demonstrates that the majority of the black middle class are living in black communities, which encompass poor black neighborhoods. As a result, a vulnerable, underemployed black middle class has to contend with inadequate public schools and high crime and poverty rates. Patillo-McCoy focuses on Groveland's multigenerational families, primarily its youth, and neighborhood networks, concluding that the future advancement of African Americans will require that the black middle class be factored into the debate on policies regarding affirmative action, segregation, and poverty. For specialized collections in African American studies, urban studies, and sociology.ÄSherri Barnes, Long Island Univ. Lib., Brooklyn (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Pattillo-McCoy's book quells any pretense that middle-class African Americans are not susceptible to the same obstacles (termed perils by the author) visited on lower-class black Americans. The introduction delineates the supposed progress blacks have made, with affirmative action taking the credit for "wiping the slate clean and balancing the scale" between blacks and whites. Pattillo-McCoy begins by describing the black middle class and the community, Groveland, a suburb of Chicago, where she conducted her ethnographical analysis. The author discusses the intergenerational economic difficulties characterizing today's Groveland versus the Groveland of the past, as well as the sordid side of Groveland. Blackness within the middle class is poignantly displayed in her treatment of growing up in Groveland, from a discussion of the use of Black English and its cohesion-building quality to a spiel on indicators of black male masculinity. Pattillo-McCoy concludes with an assessment of race, class, and place, and offers policy suggestions. An essential addition to the emerging discourse on the black middle class. All levels. R. Stewart; SUNY College at Buffalo

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 The Black Middle Class: Who, When, and Where?p. 13
2 The Making of Grovelandp. 31
3 Generations through a Changing Economyp. 44
4 Neighborhood Networks and Crimep. 68
5 Growing Up in Grovelandp. 91
6 In a Ghetto Trancep. 117
7 Nike's Reignp. 146
8 William "Spider" Waters, Jr.: Straddling Two Worldsp. 167
9 Typical Terri Jonesp. 186
Conclusionp. 201
Appendix A Research Methodp. 219
Appendix B Groveland Neighborhood Characteristicsp. 226
Notesp. 229
Referencesp. 247
Indexp. 261