Lawrence Otis Graham spent six years of his life interviewing the Black elite in cities all across America. Through this book we learn how the first elite families came about, what educations they have, what jobs they have, and what kind of social groups they are apart of. .
The Black elite can be dated back to slavery. When they arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, many slaves were already skilled in many fields. By the 1870's a handful of blacks first broke into the middle-class by attending early black universities such as: Howard, Fisk, Atlanta, and Morehouse Universities. During these early times the black elite most often associated with the Episcopal Church or the Congregational Church. They seemed to like these two denominations because other blacks were not of these faiths. Also during the early days of the Black elite, these members were often members of a membership-by-invitation only group called Jack and Jill. It helped families and their children to meet other families who were interested in educational programs, community services and other activities that helped improve their lives. The Children of such a group even attended their own private summer camp called Camp Atwater in Massachusetts. The children of these elite families stated their parents were often doctors, lawyers, teachers, and dentists. .
The black elite often wanted the best in terms of education for their children. That is why many families sent their children to private schools. In terms of public lack schools, the most popular among the elite were Dunbar High School, Booker T. Washington, DuSable and Girls high. When they moved off to college the majority of those interviewed mentioned Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, and Fisk as the places to go to college. Howard university has been popular for generations, with many students being of third or fourth generation alumni. Judge Henry Kennedy, of the superior court of Washington stated "When I was growing up here, Howard was an indicator of reaching the top.