Negroland: Book of the Week

Radio 4’s Book of the Week this week is Negroland by Margo Jefferson.

Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 to a successful black, middle-class couple in Chicago. Her memoir looks back on her childhood and the black bourgeois upbringing that ‘made and maimed me’.

She explains the title of her book: “Negroland is my name for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.”

Margo Jefferson

But the material comforts provided by a father who was a paediatrician and a mother who was formerly a social worker were circumscribed by all the painful and baffling assumptions of racial prejudice. To be a child in Negroland you had to learn the rules. But who was making those rules? And what exactly were they?


These are important and valid questions for every young person to grapple with, no matter what their background, class or ethnicity. Under the umbrella of citizenship, PSHE and philosophy we can enable our young people to consider the basic questions of belonging and identity, including those asked by the Bunyip:  Who am I? What am I?

 Another intriguing concern raised by this first broadcast of what is clearly a brilliant book of the week is that of education, and what it should mean for our young people:

 “Intellectual superiority was our task.”

 Is this so? Does our own culture aspire to this goal, given its preoccupation with “driving up standards” and teaching to the tests? Intellectual superiority over whom? One another? Other sections of society? If so, why? Surely intellectual competence and excellence are the real goals? And what of becoming socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically competent and  excellent? Are these not equally important?

Is opting out of “the larger struggle for freedom, equality and education” in order to pursue self-advancement and a tranquil life at all commendable in a very imperfect world where oppression and inequality still exist is many, many forms?

We’re looking forward to the remaining broadcasts this week, and to reading the book itself.


About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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