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The Black Middle Class: Social Mobility—and Vulnerability

Benjamin P. Bowser
The Black Middle Class: Social Mobility—and Vulnerability
ISBN: 978-1-58826-455-8
ISBN: 978-1-58826-954-6
2006/191 pages/LC: 2006015765

"Provides a sound and needed summary of the history of the African-American middle class."—Harvey J. Strum, Multicultural Review

"In this consistently insightful book, Bowser traces the development of the black middle class."—Joe R. Feagin, Contemporary Sociology

"The most innovative, thought-provoking work on the nature of race and class that has been written in the last 20 years.... a truly important critical statement."—Hayward Derrick Horton, University at Albany, SUNY


The widespread presence of successful African Americans in virtually all walks of life has led many in the United States to believe that the races are now on an equal footing—and that color blindness is the most appropriate way to deal with racial difference. In strong contrast, Benjamin Bowser argues that the seemingly comparable black and white middle classes, while inextricably linked, in fact exist on entirely different economic planes.

Probing the subtle inner workings of contemporary class dynamics, Bowser demonstrates that belief in comparability is based not in reality, but in hopes, sentiment, and ideology. His focus on the structural barriers that underlie differences in black and white achievement makes it clear that the national racial dilemma has not been solved, but only transformed, and that issues of race and class are inseparable in the United States.


Benjamin P. Bowser is professor of sociology at California State University, East Bay. He is editor of Racism and Anti-Racism in World Perspective and co-editor (with Raymond Hunt) of Impacts of Racism on White Americans.


  • Introduction.
  • Putting Class in Context.
  • The Emergence of a Black Middle Class.
  • The Class That Jim Crow Built.
  • Comparability ... Not.
  • From Affirmative Action to Diversity.
  • Anatomy of Today's Black Middle Class.
  • The Future of Race, Economic Inequality, and Class.