Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Andre McKenzie, Vice President of the Division of Academic Support Services, writes:

Nicholas Lemann’s The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America chronicles a major population shift in the United State that occurred between the early 1940s and the late 1960s, and the effect it had on Chicago’s South Side.  During this era more than five million African –Americans sought refuge from the oppressive and segregationist practices of the deep south by moving north in search of both economic and social equality.

My parents, as well as many other relatives, were a part of that migration during that period. As a native Chicagoan born in the 1950s on the South Side, I had often heard stories about their experiences in the South. Their journey north provided them with a sense of hope and optimism they believed could never be realized by staying in the rural regions of Alabama and Georgia that they called home.

This detailed narrative, which follows the lives of selected men, women, and children over a fifty-year period, has had a profound impact upon me. It has given me greater insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by my own family in their transition to the urban landscape of Chicago, while also affording me deep reflection on the obstacles that continue to hinder the economic progress of African-Americans in contemporary Chicago.

The story Lemann shares in The Promised Land is one that intersects race, class, and political discourse imposed upon an urban backdrop. In turn, it is a story connected to my own life in terms of my origins and who I am today.

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