Episode 23: The Wit & Wisdom of Margo Jefferson

Our guest this week is the Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson author (most recently) of her controversial and revealing memoir, Negroland. The touching and piercing book speaks to her experience of growing up in the black elite of Chicago in the 60s and 70s. Needless to say I was intimidated by the subject of race, but we jumped in, proving that all one needs to do is start a conversation with good intentions.

Please let us know what you this of this episode on Twitter & Instagram @litupshow. We love your feedback and comments.

XOX Angie

Margo Jefferson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic. She has been a staff writer for The New York Times and Newsweek; her reviews and essays have appeared in New York Magazine, Grand Street, Vogue, Harper’s and many other publications. Her book, On Michael Jackson, was published in 2006. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation /Theater Communications Group grant. She has also written and performed two theater pieces at The Cherry Lane Theatre and The Culture Project. Her most recent book is Negroland; a memoir.


Author photo © Michael Lionstar

Buy Negroland; a memoir at your local independent bookstore, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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  • Eleanor

    I am presently reading your book, am up to your college years. I am a few years older than yourself, 73 to be exact. I am white but Jewish and therefore heard some of the same admonishments as a youngster
    as you did — don’t show off, don’t be flashy, don’t bring too much attention to yourself, don’t embarrass the Jewish people, etc. Naturally I was covered in life by my white skin which no doubt made all the difference in the world as I made my way through life. However, as I read your book I feel so really sad about the fact that being black held such sway over your every day existence. At least that is what I am picking up from your memories. It seems to me you were black first and a human girl second. My experience was different. My family was not living on the cusp of WASP society so I never felt I had to live up to impossible standards. In my little mostly Jewish ghetto I was able to simply be a normal child and teen. It was not till way later on that I ran into subtle forms of discrimination, which truly shocked me being a New Yorker, but by then I was well able to handle it. And of course I always had that white skin to hide behind. You come from such an accomplished family and it is pathetic that your family didn’t fit into the greater black or white world and that this so much colored your life and thoughts. It is a shame that they felt they needed to fit in. Such a burden I think for those who grew up in Negroland. Oh the burden and shame of the human race that constantly strives to pigeonhole people into boxes. To think, nothing that all much has changed other than we are now old enough to perhaps not give a damn. I was not of your class nor did I have your educational opportunities yet I was always able to wake up each day and just be a girl with no strings attached. A life should not be colored by the hue of one’s skin or the width of one’s nose or hair texture type.

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