The Great Society Neighborhood in Stories for Children
Against a backdrop of 1960s urban strife and decline, some racial liberals used stories and images to conjure forth a utopian neighborhood future. As chapter 7 contends, this impulse surfaced most compellingly in works for children. In the bestselling picture books of Ezra Jack Keats or on the set of television's Sesame Street, the city neighborhood emerged as a multiracial peaceable kingdom, a Great Society achieved at the block level. Crafted with didactic intent, these portrayals were designed as models for an urban tomorrow in which the nation's painful racial legacy could be overcome through relationships forged on stoops and corners. However, various critics on the left would protest that such works ignored the structural roots of poverty while breezily universalizing the particularities of inner-city existence. Characterized by unresolved tensions between pungent realism and harmonious fantasy, these and similar texts signaled the possibilities and contradictions in a Great Society vision that sought urban redemption through neighborhood ties.
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