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Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the…
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Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in… (edition 2009)

by David Kushner

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533386,707 (3.86)3
The dark side of the American dream: the true story of the first African-American family to move into the iconic suburb, Levittown, PA . In the decade after World War II , one entrepreneurial family helped thousands of people buy into the American dream of owning a home. T he Levitts--William, Alfred, and their father, Abe--pooled their talents to create storybook towns with affordable little houses. T hey laid out the welcome mat, but not to everyone. Levittown had a whites-only policy. The events that unfolded in Levittown, PA, in the unseasonably hot summer of 1957 would rock the community. There, a white Jewish Communist family named Wechsler secretly arranged for a black family, the Myerses, to buy the pink house next door. T he explosive reaction would transform their lives, and the nation, leading to the downfall of a titan and the integration of the most famous suburb in the world. Levittown is a story of hope and fear, invention and rebellion, and the power that comes when ordinary people take an extraordinary stand. And it is as relevant today, more than fifty years later, as it was then.… (more)
Member:barbajeff
Title:Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America's Legendary Suburb
Authors:David Kushner
Info:Walker & Company (2009), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
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Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America's Legendary Suburb by David Kushner

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Levittown may be synonymous with suburbia, and despite its namesake’s desires, it is also synonymous with racial struggle and integration. Bill Levitt, along with his father and his brother, was one of the first building entrepreneurs to turn farmland into towns to feed the teeming need for housing among World War II veterans. Snubbing his nose at laws and constitutional mandates, Levitt refused to relent in his whites-only policy, believing that black families in Levittowns would deplete property values and drive others (whites) out. Sadly, Levitt’s assumptions were based on government agency reports that set mortgage rates and property values for the industry. The racism was engrained in the system, and black families all over the country were pushed out of some areas.

This book is the story of the Myers and the Weschler families. Bea and Lou Weschler were a Jewish family with a long history of activism. One-time communist sympathizers, they became disenchanted with communism during the Cold War. They left their activist past behind but stayed active in local social causes. Bill and Daisy Myers met in Virginia. She was from the area, and Bill was from York, Pennsylvania. They moved to Pennsylvania after they wed and began their family. As their family grew, they decided to move to a larger house in the suburbs, but they found securing a house in Levittown to be a difficult undertaking.

The Weschlers became aware of the Myers through the Human Relations Council, a local organization that had the apropos priority of integrating Levittown. After a meeting and some coaxing and encouragement from the Human Relations Council, the Myers agreed to purchase the house next door to the Weschlers. What came next was historic.

Neighbors began to congregate outside the Myers’ home soon after their arrival. At first, it was mostly just gawkers, but a few vocal folk made it known that they did not want an African American family in their neighborhood. People soon began choosing sides, and what ensued were middle class riots in suburbia. Shaken but undeterred, the Myers and Weschler families endured torment and abuse from a local group, tangentially aligned with the KKK, created to oust the Myers. When all was said and done, the harassers were punished and the Myers stayed. Bill Levitt, through it all, held fast to his misguided perception and fought the courts. Ultimately, however, he was forced to relent.

David Kushner tells a wonderful story that gives praise to the ability to overcome obstacles peacefully and prudently. These families faced harsh opposition but hung together through it all, drawing strength and kindness from each other and those who knew what was right. It was a tough fight in their own backyards, but through their perseverance, a battle in the war to fight segregation was won.
  Carlie | Jul 21, 2010 |
Levittown-an amazing new suburb where veterans returning from the Korean war (1950s) could afford to buy their own homes at very affordable prices. The Levitt’s made it their business to provide affordable homes complete with all the newest amenities: built-in ovens, lots of closets, televisions, etc….as well as the promise of an all-white neighborhood – no blacks allowed. And in spite of a nation that was beginning to acknowledge the evil and divisive effect of racism and segregation, the Levitt family held to their rules: whites only.

This is the true story of the events that took place in the ongoing march toward true freedom; a piece of history not to be forgotten. ( )
  bsafarik | Jun 26, 2010 |
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The dark side of the American dream: the true story of the first African-American family to move into the iconic suburb, Levittown, PA . In the decade after World War II , one entrepreneurial family helped thousands of people buy into the American dream of owning a home. T he Levitts--William, Alfred, and their father, Abe--pooled their talents to create storybook towns with affordable little houses. T hey laid out the welcome mat, but not to everyone. Levittown had a whites-only policy. The events that unfolded in Levittown, PA, in the unseasonably hot summer of 1957 would rock the community. There, a white Jewish Communist family named Wechsler secretly arranged for a black family, the Myerses, to buy the pink house next door. T he explosive reaction would transform their lives, and the nation, leading to the downfall of a titan and the integration of the most famous suburb in the world. Levittown is a story of hope and fear, invention and rebellion, and the power that comes when ordinary people take an extraordinary stand. And it is as relevant today, more than fifty years later, as it was then.

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