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From Bourgeois to Boojie

Black Middle-Class Performances

Edited by Vershawn Ashanti Young with Bridget Harris Tsemo

Publication Year: 2011

Examines how generations of African Americans perceive, proclaim, and name the combined performance of race and class across genres.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Contents

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pp. ix-xii

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Foreword

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pp. xiii-xxii

Since our arrival on American soil, African Americans have always been marked by our class position. Although we were considered only three-fifths human and had no material possessions to speak of, enslaved Africans’ intracultural relations were shaped by class, for white masters understood the psychosocial dynamics of divide and conquer: give one group access to the master’s house and family and put the other in the fields and forbid them access to the same. Thus the distinction between...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

The cultural critic and sociologist E. Franklin Frazier published the original edition of his controversial text Black Bourgeoisie in 1955. Fifty years later Bridget Harris Tsemo and I organized a panel— “From Bourgeois to Boogie: Mapping the Economics of Identity and the Black Middle Class”—for the annual conference of the Modern Language Association. We wanted to reassess the influence of Black Bourgeoisie on humanities ...

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INTRODUCTION: Performing Citizenship

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pp. 1-38

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center reports African Americans today believe that “blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race” and that class performance—how middle class or lower class you act—distinguishes one race of African Americans from an ...

PART I. PERFORMING RESPONSIBILITY

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1 Bourgeois Fugue: Notes on the Life of the Negro Intellectual

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pp. 41-48

I cannot utter the phrase “black bourgeoisie” without evoking Howard University in the 1960s. On a hot afternoon amid the hum and buzz of the largest city I had ever inhabited, I matriculated with the Howard class of 1965. Before I found my dormitory room in Charles Drew Hall, I heard the name “E. Franklin Frazier” a dozen times. Frazier was one of Howard’s ...

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2 Pockets of Sanity

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pp. 49-60

A short line of cars moved slowly through the street, headlights beaming in the middle of the day, while dark murky clouds floated in a fog-filled sky. Many people on the Philadelphia streets glanced at the caravan and thought nothing of it. Another death in the city was no big deal....

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3 Momma, Obama, and Me: Black Leadership/Black Legitimacy

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pp. 61-68

I was a child of the sixties, though not in the way that my mother and father, who were in high school during that monumental decade, were sixties children. Rather, I was literally born in the sixties—1967, to be exact. Before the Age of Obama, I never had occasion to think seriously about the meaning of the specific accident of chronology we casually refer to as “generation.” The tumult, progress, and legacy of the sixties shaped my life and the lives of my parents in ways that both connect and separate us....

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4 Selling Dr. King’s Dream: Blackness and Tourism in Atlanta

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pp. 69-84

Since Atlanta’s humble beginnings as the end point for the Western and Atlantic Railroad, it has repeatedly been reinvented by commercial and political interests: as a center of industry and transportation; as a cosmopolitan city and cultural center of the South; as an international destination and place to visit; as the birthplace of the civil rights movement; as the southern black mecca. Additionally, it has long been suggested that there are two Atlanta’s—one black, one white; this divide has ...

5 The Drug of White Supremacy

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pp. 85-88

PART II. PERFORMING WOMANHOOD

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6 Black Girls and Representative Citizenship

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pp. 91-110

Conduct books written by black activists at the beginning of the twentieth century advocated a race that was cultured, malleable, law abiding, and religious. These texts were produced as black populations were migrating from southern states to northern and western cities during the Great Migration. Because this movement changed the geography of race relations through a collision of classes, manners, dialects, and lifestyles that resulted in unease among the black elite, conduct books offered...

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7 Black Bourgeois Women’s Narratives in the Post-Reagan, “Post–Civil Rights,” “Postfeminist” Era

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pp. 111-130

Black bourgeois memoirs and novels published late in the twentieth century engage a cluster of related questions: What significance, if any, does class have in American constructions of race, and how does gender inflect the experience of race and class? Where does the black bourgeois woman fit into the historical and psychic narratives of American identity? How does her liberation project relate to the liberation of black...

8 Rosalind

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pp. 131-142

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9 Scenes from Single Black Female

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pp. 143-152

In June 2006 my play Single Black Female opened off-Broadway at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, produced by the New Professional Theatre and directed by Colman Domingo.1 The irreverent show, originally billed as a new comedy about sex, love, and shopping, depicts the frustrations faced by middle-class black women as they encounter bad dates, abrasive gynecologists, and insensitive relatives. Rendering the lives of SBF 1 and SBF 2 as they help each other survive the narrow odds of finding partnership

PART III. PERFORMING MEDIA

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10 Of Afropunks and Other Anarchic Signifiers of Contrary Negritude

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pp. 155-158

Like other emblems and aspirants of civilization, the black bourgeoisie has produced a unique set of discontents, malcontents, miscreants, and class traitors. In the 1940s and 1950s some escaped from their class obligations by becoming beboppers and beatniks; in the 1960s a rebellious new generation eschewed Cadillac dealerships and croquet to become Freedom Riders, Black Panthers, revolutionary poets, and free jazz...

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11 Hip-hop and Capitalist Interests

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pp. 159-174

The Miami rapper Trick Daddy raps quite simply and bluntly in his 1998 hit titled “Nann Nigga”: “You don’t know nann nigga / that dress fresher than me / and you don’t know nann nigga that wear...

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12 Middle-Class Ideology in African American Postwar Comic Strips

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pp. 175-190

Postwar black comic strips present ideologies that reflect both what E. Franklin Frazier calls a middle-class “world of make-believe” (false perceptions of class status and influence) and critiques of this perception. Not all comic strips of the era are limited to addressing this debate, however, nor are all even concerned with representing these views. What is important to know about them is that comic strips are a direct reflection of...

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13 Put Some Skirts on the Cards! Black Women’s Visual Performances in the Art of Annie Lee

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pp. 191-208

On November 14, 2008, the largest African American museum of its kind, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, hosted an exhibition and signing by one of the most well known artists of the late twentieth century, Annie Lee (figure 13.1). The event included an unveiling of her commemorative painting of President Barack Obama that would become one of the paintings in her woman-centered...

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14 Melodrama of the Movement: Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun

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pp. 209-232

When the hip-hop performer and cultural impresario Sean “Puffy” Combs lent his celebrity to the role of Walter Lee Younger in the recent ABC version of A Raisin in the Sun, he only confirmed what many fans had long known: Lorraine Hansberry’s kitchen-sink drama has legs. From the original Broadway production of 1959–60 to the first film version (1961) to the Tony Award–winning musical...

PART IV. PERFORMING SEXUALITY

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15 The Black Church and the Blues Body

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pp. 235-260

"There’s something going all wrong” in the black church. So that we may appreciate what that is, let me first clarify what I mean by the black church. The black church is not a single entity. It is a diverse grouping of churches that reflects the rich complexity of the black community itself. Though very different, black churches share a common history and maintain a pivotal role in black sociocultural life; these commonalities suggest their collective identity as the black church....

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16 “A Kind of End to Blackness”: Reginald McKnight’s He Sleeps and the Body Politics of Race and Class

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pp. 261-286

The novelist Reginald McKnight confesses that he has oen felt he was not “two-fistedly black” because he grew up in largely white environments and was not raised in the “community of the poor” that he describes in the epigraph.1 McKnight’s words provide a clue to why notions of black authenticity continue, in the twenty-first century, to be linked to black poverty, despite contemporary evidence of a visible, vocal, and sizable...

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17 Black Ladies and Black Magic Women

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pp. 287-308

The films Daughters of the Dust (1991) and Eve’s Bayou (1997) challenge the overdetermined narrative of middle-class black romance presented in numerous movies released since the 1990s.1 The long list of popular films includes ...

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18 "Boojie!”: A Question of Authenticity

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pp. 309-330

This collection is an articulate intellectual space for exploring the interplay of class and blackness under the traveling, if not transformative, construction “from bourgeois to boojie.” It is a space of both empowerment and entrapment. So, as a relatively articulate black/teacher/ performer/scholar working inside both the comforts and confines of the academy (the white ivory tower), I cannot address the issue of boojieness,...

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AFTERWORD

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pp. 331-338

"We used to have to walk five miles to and from school in the hot sun with shoes that hardly had soles to get to a classroom that held all the kids from first to sixth grade.” Who hasn’t heard this line from their parents (or grandparents) as their testimony to how poor they were?...

CONTRIBUTORS

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pp. 339-346

INDEX

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pp. 347-366


E-ISBN-13: 9780814336427
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334683

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 5
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: African American Life Series