Cover: Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities, from Harvard University PressCover: Black Identities in PAPERBACK

Black Identities

West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities

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Product Details


$35.50 • £28.95 • €32.00

ISBN 9780674007246

Publication Date: 09/15/2001


432 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 map, 10 tables

Russell Sage Foundation Books at Harvard University Press


It would be fair to say that most Americans are not aware of the wide variety of ethnicities that exist among the black Caribbeans migrating to this country. Determined to render visible Caribbean immigrants and their families, Waters undertook an exhaustive research project. Here she compares Jamaican, Barbadian, Trinidadian, and Guyanese immigrants to their Irish and Italian counterparts of the turn of the last century, and because the issue of race so strongly shapes everyday life for people of color in this society, she examines the relationships between (and differences among) American blacks and black Caribbean immigrants. Drawing from interviews with several generations of immigrants, Waters reports a wide range of discoveries—including her finding that the Caribbean immigrants who resist Americanization are the most likely to succeed. And excellent history and a multifaceted analysis of current immigration issues.—Deborah Bigelow, Library Journal

Waters tackles an important problem, one filled with implications, to say nothing of consequences, for our new century… It is, however, the story of ordinary West Indian immigrants that Waters wants to tell, and here is where her field work, which is to say, the collection of immigrant voices across a spectrum of attitudes and generations, is of enormous value.—Sanford Pinsker, Virginia Quarterly Review

This is a very ambitious and important book that offers a sophisticated and highly nuanced treatment of several complex social issues that lie at the core of American politics and society in the late 20th century. The work is distinguished by the sensitivity and imagination of the analysis, its firm grounding in solid empirical work, and a clear and engaging style that makes Black Identities a pleasure to read.—Douglas S. Massey, coauthor of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

Black Identities, Mary Waters’s new study of West Indian immigrants and their troubled encounter with the American dream, is an accomplishment of the first order. Full of rich material, Waters’s book is delivered in clean, crisp prose, offering an original argument sure to provoke controversy, even as readers will admire its good sense. An outstanding work, Black Identities will be eagerly read by sociologists, historians, political scientists, and anyone interested in the emerging shape of American ethnic life.—Roger Waldinger, author of Still the Promised City? African-Americans and New Immigrants in Postindustrial New York

Black Identities establishes a new landmark in the study of West Indian immigrant experiences in the United States. Mary C. Waters’s perceptive and authoritative study challenges conventional views of the Americanization of West Indian immigrants. Also, her comprehensive coverage of their experiences and contacts with native Americans enriches our understanding of race relations in this country.—William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

Awards & Accolades

  • 2001 Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award, International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association
  • 2001 Mirra Komarovsky Book Award, Eastern Sociological Society
  • 2000 Best Book Award on Ethnic Political Incorporation, Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association
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