Tally’s Corner


Liebow’s groundbreaking work Tally’s Corner studies the culture of Negro Streetcorner Men. The topic of this book is to understand low-income urban Negroes. Liebow begins by tying to immerse the reader into the shadowy and gloomy work that the black have to endure every day. He paints the images of an unyielding white middle class who will give nothing but the leftovers to their black brothers; further, that the whites take advantage of the blacks many ways. One of the examples that caught my eye was the fact that construction managers did not want to hire black people from certain neighborhoods because these blacks would be forced to tell other people vital information necessary to assault the factory such as where they hide the money, what would be the best time to go, and so on. Thus in this case I see a structural problem whereby it is not the blacks fault that they live in a certain neighborhood; probably because it is one of the only places they can afford to live, because they live with their families.

This study consists having a group of staffers observe the behavior of a group of blacks in a Washington D.C. corner. “The data were collected during twelve months of intensive participant observation in 1962… The great bulk of the material is drawn from two dozen negro men who share a corner in Washington.”

The reason why many Negro people cannot obtain jobs is due to their lack of education. Thus they have to get jobs in the service sector, whereby they work as janitors, contraction workers, trash recollections, thus Liebow argues that these jobs are harmful to the blacks as they provide relatively small wages (small enough that they cannot feed their family or sometimes even themselves), that these jobs offer no security and thus they could be fired from one day to the next, and finally and in a certain aspect most importantly, these jobs do not offer a mean to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Thus they will forever be stuck in these types of jobs. For example, with the computer revolution blacks are left behind as they allot of them are not even literate, thus much less could they operate a computer. Thus the fact that the educational system is so bad for them causes problems. Thus as long as the black people continue uneducated so will their children and so on. Liebow introduced the concept what failing in one’s economic projects brings us down by taking away our self esteem and thus a spiral of continuing failure comes to those who cannot liberate themselves of this slippery slope.

Liebow presents an excellent study of the society of the black man. He approaches the topic in a good way and makes several valuable observations. First he notices the many injustices that the black man faces in every day, such as how the people with control, the white middle class, are unrelentless and do not give them the opportunities they need to advance. Further, he observes how when the blacks fail they get scared of failing again and often do not attempt to get up and try again. Furthermore, since everyone tends to fail, and the ones who don’t are the exception, it becomes accepted to be mediocre and just say that it was what was expected and stay there. Finally, I found that the conclusions that Liebow presents were often problematic. For example, Liebow argues that only as providers can men find self-fulfillment in the family. I do not believe this is true as a family is a support structure that helps you when you are down and up. Liebow thus sometimes tends to see things a in a dark view to try to understand why the Negroes are apparently doing so badly. Regardless, I do not like how he tries to push arguments, like in this example.