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Lawrence Otis Graham (1961–2021), author who explored race in America

by Linnea Crowther

Lawrence Otis Graham was a lawyer and author whose examinations of race and privilege in America became best-sellers.

Race, privilege, and prejudice

Graham’s breakthrough as a writer came in 1992, when he published the article “Invisible Man” in New York magazine. It recounted Graham’s experience when, already a successful lawyer who had written several books, he took a job as a busboy at Connecticut’s exclusive Greenwich Country Club. As he worked there, he observed racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, documenting them for publication. The success of the article elevated Graham’s writing career, and his subsequent books were best-sellers. They included “Member of the Club: Reflections on Life in a Polarized World,” an expansion of his New York magazine article, as well as “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class” and “The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty.” “Our Kind of People” is reportedly in development as a Netflix series. In 2000, Graham ran for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Notable quote

“This is the problem with being raised in the Black upper middle class. You are living in a white world but you have to hold on to Black culture. You have to please two groups. One group says you have sold out, and the other never quite accepts you.” —from a 1995 interview for the Washington Post

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Tributes to Lawrence Otis Graham

Full obituary: The New York Times

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