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The ruining of Egypt
Elite black America
Negroland: A Memoir. By Margo Jefferson. Vintage; 248 pages; $16. Granta; £12.99.
“IN NEGROLAND”, writes Margo Jefferson, “we thought of ourselves as the Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians.” This penetrating memoir, out last September in America and only recently in Britain, is at its heart an unpacking of that sentence and its implications.
Start with her self-conscious choice of the word “Negro”. To modern ears it sounds archaic, not to mention offensive. But as Ms Jefferson explains, no other word captures the sweep and complexity of America’s tortured race relations; it is “a word for runaway slave posters and civil-rights proclamations…a tonal-language word whose meaning shifts as setting and context shift.”
“Negroland” is Ms Jefferson’s term for “a small region of Negro America whose residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.” This region is …
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