Fifty Years After Myrdal


Half a century has passed since the publication of Gunnar Myrdal's monumental two-volume work, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Myrdal painted an agonizing portrait of the pervasiveness of racially prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory practices in American life, but perhaps his most important contribution lay not in the descriptive detail he amassed concerning these conditions (Bobo, 1993), but in the compelling new interpretive context he provided for understanding racial prejudice and discrimination. Central to this context was the paradox posed by the coexistence of race-based social, economic, and political inequality, on the one hand, and the cherished American cultural values of freedom and equality, on the other.


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