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Living Black
Social Life in an African American Neighborhood
Mark S. Fleisher

Living Black breaks the stereotype of poor African American neighborhoods as dysfunctional ghettos of helpless and hopeless people

Despite real and enduring poverty, the community described here—the historic North End of Champaign, Illinois—has a vibrant social life and strong ties among generations. But it operates on its own nonjudgmental terms—teen moms aren’t derided, school dropouts aren’t ridiculed, and parolees and ex-cons aren’t scorned.

Mark S. Fleisher offers a window into daily life in this neighborhood, particularly through the stories of Mo and Memphis Washington, who fight to sustain a stable home for their children, and of Burpee, a local man who has returned to the North End to rebuild his life after years of crime and punishment in Chicago.



Author. Photo credit, Name Mark S. Fleisher is a research professor in the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. He formerly worked at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and at Illinois State University. He is the author of Beggars and Thieves, Dead End Kids, and Warehousing Violence.





“This fascinating story of survival and hope describes an African American community where hustling (working in the gray or underground economy) and street life are accepted as normal. Although worlds apart from ‘mainstream’ white America, the North End is a stable, family oriented (often female headed), non-judgmental society that whites drive through with the windows up and the doors locked. . . . A compelling must read; all levels, all libraries.”

“Fleisher’s conclusion—that the poor black people of the North End were actually quite resilient, morally sound, and self-sufficient in the face of privation—goes against the common notion that American ghettos are broken places. As the author makes clear, what is in need of repair is the larger system that creates ghettos in the first place.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A human story, not necessarily an account of white vs black or haves vs have nots. . . . Living Black should be required reading for anyone who could benefit from a look outside their own world into the world of others. Which is most of us.”
Chicago Book Review

“A very engaging account of fieldwork among gang members, their families, and their community, in line with ethnographies like Tally’s Corner, Code of the Street, or Gang Leader for a Day.”
—Jeffrey Ian Ross, coauthor of Beyond Bars



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Of Related Interest


An African American Life in Search of Justice
Sylvia Bell White and Jody LePage

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November 2015
LC: 2015008381 E
176 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $29.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-30534-5
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