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Publishers Weekly
May 11, 1998

This is a well-documented but gloomy tale of three cities-New York, Detroit and Atlanta-and their unsuccessful struggle to realize Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of an integrated society.

Jacoby, a former editor at the New York Times, puts a great deal of the blame on Mayors John Lindsay, Coleman Young, Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young for what she sees as their faulty though well-intentioned leadership. She argues that Lindsay, a charismatic liberal, thought he could turn New York City in the 1960s into an experimental laboratory for decentralized government, neighborhood empowerment and community control of the public schools. He disappointed the rising expectations of the ghetto poor while antagonizing ethnic whites. Coleman Young, a militant African American, took over in Detroit in the wake of an urban riot, seeking to make the city a working example of black power but increased white flight to the suburbs while leaving a residue of alienated inner-city blacks. In Atlanta, Maynard Jackson took office inthe same week in 1973 as Coleman Young, emphasizing "set asides" for black entrepreneurs seeking a share of the white economic pie. Charges of corruption in a process that failed to train rank-and-file minorities to achieve mainstream success along with a rising crime rate and continuing segregation marred the record of the South's first African American big-city mayor. The legacy proved more than his successor, Andrew Young, could overcome. Young's run for governor went down to humiliating defeat, the victim of black indifference as well as white hostility. Jacoby counsels a long road of acculturation rather than short-term government policies, which, she claims, have only exacerbated the situation.

© 1998 Publishers Weekly

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