Cover image for Black identities : West Indian immigrant dreams and American realities
Black identities : West Indian immigrant dreams and American realities
Waters, Mary C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Russell Sage Foundation ; Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
413 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
E184.W54 W38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The story of West Indian immigrants to the USA is considered a great success. However, the author found that over time the realities of American race relations begin to swamp their positive cultural values and racial discrimination soon undermines their initial openess to whites.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

It would be fair to say that most Americans are not aware of the wide variety of ethnicities that exist among the black Caribbeans migrating to this country. Determined to render visible Caribbean immigrants and their families, Waters (sociology, Harvard Univ.) undertook an exhaustive research project. Here she compares Jamaican, Barbadian, Trinidadian, and Guyanese immigrants to their Irish and Italian counterparts of the turn of the last century, and because the issue of race so strongly shapes everyday life for people of color in this society, she examines the relationships between (and differences among) American blacks and black Caribbean immigrants. Drawing from interviews with several generations of immigrants, Waters reports a wide range of discoveries--including her finding that the Caribbean immigrants who resist Americanization are the most likely to succeed. An excellent history and a multifaceted analysis of current immigration issues, this book is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.--Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Waters's well-organized and clearly written book examines the aspirations, relationships, experiences, and identities of West Indian immigrants in New York City. She shows how the historical legacies of their countries of origin provide choices of racial and ethnic identity different from African Americans, and how their experience of racism in the US affects these identities and those of their children. These immigrants, like African Americans, face declining employment opportunities in the cities. They live largely in racially segregated neighborhoods and their children attend segregated schools, so many are identified with African Americans. Unlike European immigrants, whose "Americanization" led to integration with the dominant majority and upward social mobility, West Indian immigrants become assimilated by joining an abused and stigmatized minority. Consequently, many West Indian immigrants and their children experience the bitter disappointment of downward mobility. Waters (Harvard Univ.), author of Ethnic Options (1990), concludes that the pervasive reality of racism all too often overwhelms these immigrants' dreams. Broader in scope than Milton Vickerman's Crosscurrents (CH, Mar'99), which studies only men, this important book is strongly recommended for all collections in sociology, Caribbean, African American, and immigration studies. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. O. N. Bolland; Colgate University

Table of Contents

Historical Legacies
Racial and Ethnic Identity Choices
West Indians at Work
Encountering American Race Relations
Intergenerational Dynamics
Segregated Neighborhoods and Schools
Identities of the Second Generation
Immigrants and American Race Relations
Appendix: Notes on Methodology