Frontline: The Two Nations of Black America (1998)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Race & Ethnicity, Social Issues  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |  
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Frontline correspondent and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examines the widening gap between the upper and lower classes of black America while exploring just how we could simultaneously have the largest black middleclass and largest black underclass in the history of the United States. As black success continues on the upswing, Gates highlights how that positive trend is offset by deepening black despair. Could it be that the upper black classes share more in common with their white neighbors and colleagues than the friends and family they abandoned in the inner cities? Three decades after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., many American blacks have gained middle class status thanks to the civil rights movement and affirmative action. But numbers indicate that just as many were left to contend with poverty in the ever-expanding underclass as well. By intertwining his own life story against that of young African Americans coming of age in the early 21st Century, Gates compares the choices that he was faced with as a young man against the choices that the youth of today are faced with. Interviews with prominent blacks and civil rights veterans reveal that a large number of black leaders believe that issues of economic deprivation and class divide must first be addressed before any substantial improvement can be seen, while a study of the relationship between structural and behavioral issues that cause lower class blacks to fall further behind leads to a candid discussion about personal responsibility and the devastating effects of violent gangster culture.

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Keywords

African-American, poverty, class-clash, lower-class, upper-class, class-consciousness, despair