‘In Negroland we thought of ourselves as the Third Race’

‘In Negroland we thought of ourselves as the Third Race’

The Guardian

Margo Jefferson

An extract from Negroland, Margo Jefferson’s memoir of growing up in postwar America’s emerging black elite

  • Margo Jefferson: ‘I was anxious about using the word Negro in a book title’

I was taught to avoid showing off.

I was taught to distinguish myself through presentation, not declaration, to excel through deeds and manners, not showing off.

But isn’t all memoir a form of showing off?

In my Negroland childhood, this was a perilous business.

Negroland is my name for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty. Children in Negroland were warned that few Negroes enjoyed privilege or plenty and that most whites would be glad to see them returned to indigence, deference, and subservience. Children there were taught that most other Negroes ought to be emulating us when too many of them (out of envy or ignorance) went on behaving in ways that encouraged racial prejudice…

Read the extract here.

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