Book Review | Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham

I stumbled upon Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, an intriguing novel by Lawrence Otis Graham, after doing a Yahoo! search for “black affluent neighborhoods.” I was trying to find out what neighborhoods in America the black elite live in.

Well, I did not find a website containing that particular information, but I did discover Our Kind of People. After reading an excerpt of the book on Amazon, I went right out and bought it at the bookstore, deciding not to wait for a cheaper copy to come in the mail. I was shocked and amazed that there was a book out there that talked about the Black Elite in such great detail and from an insider perspective. I must say that I was not disappointed.

Graham covers everything from childhood to organizations, accomplishments, and secret social societies of the black, educated, and wealthy in America. This book is a must-read for people like myself who have been taught a black history that covers the struggle, but not the affluence.

The book reads like a who’s who of American society, while covering important issues such as skin color-consciousness, classicism within the black race, higher education, and the discrimination that even the richest and most accomplished blacks faced.

My main criticism of the book is the way in which sororities and fraternities are covered. As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, I disagreed with the assumption that there are only two black sororities that “count,” considering that mine wasn’t one of them and the fact the that conception of these sororities does not reflect the complete history of the organizations. Nevertheless, this is a small glitch in an overall excellent history. Since a decade has passed since the publication of the book, an updated version from the publisher would be a good idea to reflect the many changes that black society has undergone, new achievers, changes within organizations, as well as the addition of updates on the organizations that are covered in such great detail.

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8 thoughts on “Book Review | Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham

  1. Bianca Reagan says:

    My main criticism of the book is the way in which sororities and fraternities are covered. As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, I disagreed with the assumption that there are only two black sororities that “count,” considering that mine wasn’t one of them and the fact the that conception of these sororities does not reflect the complete history of the organizations.

    That’s because Mr. Graham often states his opinions as facts in the book. I’m sure your organization is a lovely one. 🙂

  2. debrajohnson says:

    I agree completely. The fact that Graham was not a member of a fraternity himself probably had a lot to do with his extremely narrow views and it certainly gives people who are not a member of a black fraternity or sorority the wrong impression.

  3. Spencer says:

    I agree with with debrajohnson, I have also read the book and as a member of Iota Phi Theta. I didn’t completely agree with his depiction of the greek system as whole. But that does happen with individual who are not members.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Although you wrote this three years ago (LOL) I am now just coming upon this blog. I think the primary reason why Iota was not even mentioned in the book (not even as a “lesser” BLGO) is because Iota was not part of the NPHC until 1997 (I’m sure you know that). This book was published in 98/99 and Graham did at least 2 years of research before the book was written and published. Also, many of the Black elite interviewed for this book were born and pledged before Iota was even founded. Today in 2011, there are still people on college campuses that don’t know Iota exists or that it is a part of the “D9” so why would the Black elite know?

  4. Myriam says:

    I have not as of yet read the book but it is going to likely be one that is at the top of my list for books to read in 2009 . Truly want to see what this is all about. Seems interesting.

  5. goodcraftsman says:

    I am a white man, and I despise everything about a Secret Society. Whether it be a college fraternity, sorority, Freemasonry, or Eastern Star. Its unamerican, and all needs to be run-out of America. If you are in the sorority, then you should be familiar with this clandestine war that Freemasonry is waging on the black, and white communitys. If you don’t denounce these people for the crimes that they are committing, then you are just as guilty as them. You are essentially a female Uncle Tom.

    They are screwing-up the black population with crack, then they are taking these people and dumping them on the white population so it will generate white flight. Lets hear you discuss this in your blog. Open some of these secrets to the rest of us, if you are really concerned about the black population (or the population as a whole). If your in a sorority, then you should be in a position to know about these agendas. People like you are are just as damaging to the black community as these Zionists. You are guilty by association. And you have committed the crime of silence. Under the law, this could be considered obstruction of justice.

    I was sexually abused as a child for not “playing-along” with these Secret Societies weird racial agendas involving social engineering. I believe that these values should be taught at home by the parents. Secret Societies have no place teaching our kids what race they need to sleep with. My blog:

    http://goodcraftsman.wordpress.com/

    • kevthegreat says:

      As a Black man I totally agree with you. I was just thinking the same thing, and to think I almost joined a fraternity.

  6. Marcus Johnson says:

    I agree with the chapter on BGLOs. All nine are great in their own way and have made tremendous contributions to the Black and global society. However, one’s greatness or contributions are not necessarily part of the formula used to decide which BLGOs are favored by the Black elite. As a member of a BGLO (NUPE) and coming from a family full of BGLO members I was taught and kind of always knew that certain BGLOs were considered “better” than the other ones by the Black elite. When I think of the social circles I grew up in, maintained through undergrad, grad and now as a professional, those in my circle and similar circles are members of the 5 Graham named. Are there members of PBS, IPhiT, ZPhiB and SGRho who are members of the Links, Girlfriends, Boule, Guardsman, etc.? Of course there are but their numbers in the orgs coveted by the Black elite are low. Remember, this book discusses what the opinions of the Black elite which may or may not be the truth or contrary to what other non-elite Blacks think.

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