Negroland By: Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson and her sister Denise in 1956 on a family cross-country trip. Margo was a co-captain of her varsity cheerleading team. Margo is in the center of the back row.

Margo Jefferson

  • Born in 1947 into the upper-class of black Chicago. Her father was a physician; her mother, a socialite.
  • Jefferson was appointed critic-at-large, covering theater, for the New York Times in 1966. In 1995 Jefferson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
  • Jefferson is a storyteller and through her memoir she is not only telling her own story, but she is telling the stories of others from Negroland - some may call her a Village Griot for Negroland.
"'We're considered upper-class Negroes and upper-middle-class Americans,' Mother says. 'But most people would like to consider us Just More Negroes'" (43).

Networks of Affiliation

James Forten: abolitionist and entrepreneur, born to free Negro parents, an antebellum founder of Negroland (11). Charlotte Forten: granddaughter of James Forten, from one of Philadelphia's most distinguished colored families (24-26).
Raven Wilkinson, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo / Janet Collins Metropolitan Opera Ballet / Both ballerinas in the 1950s (55-56)
"Two large elderly women in large antique chairs...Mary McLeod Bethune is the Negro, broad and stout. Lanky, big-boned Eleanor Roosevelt is the Caucasian" (59).

Jefferson on Mary Jane McLeod Bethune:

"She longed to go to Africa as a missionary. The Baptist Mission Service informed her that they had no place in Africa for a Negro missionary, so she returned to the American South and became a missionary to young black girls threatened by poverty, ignorance, and degradation. She built a matriarchal kingdom from the ramshackle materials of Negro life in Florida" (61).


  • What is Negroland and what is Jefferson's role in Negroland? (7)
  • How does Negroland compare/contrast to the Talented Tenth? (34-35)
  • What is the third Race of Negroland (51)
  • Are these beauty standards that of Negroland? (52)

Discussion Questions

  • Why title the memoir Negroland?
  • What are your thoughts on Jefferson's voice use of "we" in Negroland?
  • What role does Jefferson's mother play in this memoir?
  • What is the significance of time in Negroland?
  • Thoughts about the cover - Why is the full face not shown?
  • What are your thoughts on the reference to Strom Thurmond Jr. and Carrie Butler of South Carolina on page 61?
Created By
Ellen Hudson Howard

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