Manchild in the Promised Land

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Simon and Schuster, Sep 28, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 416 pages
14 Reviews
With more than two million copies in print, Manchild in the Promised Land is one of the most remarkable autobiographies of our time—the definitive account of African-American youth in Harlem of the 1940s and 1950s, and a seminal work of modern literature.

Published during a literary era marked by the ascendance of black writers such as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Alex Haley, this thinly fictionalized account of Claude Brown’s childhood as a hardened, streetwise criminal trying to survive the toughest streets of Harlem has been heralded as the definitive account of everyday life for the first generation of African Americans raised in the Northern ghettos of the 1940s and 1950s.

When the book was first published in 1965, it was praised for its realistic portrayal of Harlem—the children, young people, hardworking parents; the hustlers, drug dealers, prostitutes, and numbers runners; the police; the violence, sex, and humor.

The book continues to resonate generations later, not only because of its fierce and dignified anger, not only because the struggles of urban youth are as deeply felt today as they were in Brown’s time, but also because of its inspiring message. Now with an introduction by Nathan McCall, here is the story about the one who “made it,” the boy who kept landing on his feet and grew up to become a man.

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User Review  - Madamxtra - LibraryThing

This timeless work is a must read for everyone. It's more than a Black wake-up call, it's a glimpse into a raw reality that never seems to improves, especially for inner-city youth. I gave a copy to each of my Sons - I need to call them and make sure they've read it...SMILE!!! Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - thewanderingjew - LibraryThing

I wish I could give this book a rating of 10 stars. The language in the book is crude, but it serves only to make the story more authentic. Although this book was published five decades ago, it is ... Read full review

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Page 5 - I want to talk about the first Northern urban generation of Negroes. I want to talk about the experiences of a misplaced generation, of a misplaced people in an extremely complex, confused society. This is a story of their searching, their dreams, their sorrows, their small and futile rebellions, and their endless battle to establish their own place in America's greatest metropolis — and in America itself.
Page 5 - The characters are sons and daughters of former Southern sharecroppers. These were the poorest people of the South, who poured into New York City during the decade following the Great Depression. These migrants were told that unlimited opportunities for prosperity existed in New York and that there was no "color problem" there. They were told that Negroes lived in houses with bathrooms, electricity, running water, and indoor toilets. To them, this was the "promised land" that Mammy had been singing...
Page 6 - Before the soreness of the cotton fields had left Mama's back, her knees were getting sore from scrubbing "Goldberg's" floor. Nevertheless, she was better off; she had gone from the fire into the frying pan. The children of these disillusioned colored pioneers inherited the total lot of their parents — the disappointments, the anger. To add to their misery, they had little hope of deliverance. For where does one run to when he's already in the promised land?
Page 9 - Street. She said my getting shot when I did "was the work of the Lord." My gang had been stealing sheets and bedspreads off clotheslines for months before I had gotten shot. I asked this godly woman why she thought it was the work of the Lord or Jesus or whoever. She began in a sermonlike tone, saying, "Son, people was gitting tired-a y'all stealing all dey sheets and spreads." She said that on the night that I had gotten shot, she baited her clothesline with two brand-new bedspreads, turned out...
Page 5 - The Georgians came as soon as they were able to pick train fare off the peach trees. They came from South Carolina where the cotton stalks were bare. The North Carolinians came with tobacco tar beneath their fingernails. They felt as the Pilgrims must have felt when they were coming to America. But these descendants of Ham must have been twice as happy as the Pilgrims, because they had been catching twice the hell. Even while planning the trip, they sang spirituals such as "Jesus Take My Hand" and...

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About the author (2010)

Claude Brown was born in New York City and grew up in Harlem. At age seventeen, after serving several terms in reform school, he left Harlem for Greenwich Village. He went on to receive a bachelor's degree from Howard University and attended law school. He also wrote a book called The Children of Ham in 1976. Manchild in the Promised Land evolved from an article he published in Dissent magazine during his first year at college. He died in 2002 at the age of 64.

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