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A Nation of NeighborhoodsImagining Cities, Communities, and Democracy in Postwar America$
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Benjamin Looker

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226073989

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226290454.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

Peaceable Kingdoms

Peaceable Kingdoms

The Great Society Neighborhood in Stories for Children

(p.199) Seven Peaceable Kingdoms
A Nation of Neighborhoods

Benjamin Looker

University of Chicago Press

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.

Keywords:   children, television, neighborhood, urban, inner-city, poverty, Ezra Jack Keats, Sesame Street, Great Society, liberals

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