Lawrence Otis Graham

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Lawrence O. Graham
Born 1962 (age 52–53)
Residence Chappaqua, New York and Manhattan
Nationality American
Other names Larry Graham[1]
Alma mater Princeton University (B.A., 1983)
Harvard Law School (JD, 1988)
Occupation Lawyer at Cuddy & Feder
Known for African-American social class books and news commentary
Spouse(s) Pamela Thomas-Graham

Lawrence Otis Graham (born 1962) is an African-American attorney, speaker, and New York Times best-selling author.[2][citation needed][not in citation given]


Early life and education[edit]

Graham was raised in Manhattan and later in White Plains, New York.[3] He graduated from White Plains High School in 1979.[4] He has a brother, Richard, an orthodontist.[5]

He graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1983 and from Harvard Law School with a juris doctor in 1988.[6]


Lawrence Otis Graham is a nationally-known corporate and labor attorney as well as a New York Times bestselling author of 14 non-fiction books on the subject of politics, education, race and class in America. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report and Reader's Digest, where he has served as a contributing editor. His book Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class (HarperCollins) was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Essence Magazine bestseller, as well as a selection of the Book of the Month Club.

Graham’s book The Senator and The Socialite: the Story of America’s First Black Political Dynasty (HarperCollins) is a biography of U.S. Senator Blanche Bruce, the first black person to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. Graham is also the author of such books as The Best Companies for Minorities (Penguin Books) and Proversity: Getting Past Face Value (John Wiley & Sons) –two guides on diversity in the workplace—as well as Member of the Club, which focused on his now-famous experience of leaving his New York law firm and going undercover as a busboy to expose racism, sexism and anti-Semitism at a segregated country club in Connecticut during the 1990s. That was originally a cover story on New York Magazine, and was later optioned for a feature film by Warner Brothers. The article led to the Professional Golfers' Association of America's decision to no longer host events at segregated clubs. Upon the article's publication, Graham was named Young Lawyer of the Year by the National Bar Association, and several city bar associations around the nation adopted policies that discouraged member firms from hosting events or conducting business with clubs that did not permit women, minorities or Jews.

Graham has appeared on numerous TV programs including Charlie Rose, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today Show, The View, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and Good Morning America, and has been profiled in USA Today, TIME Magazine, Ebony, and People Magazine. He is a popular speaker at colleges, corporations and other institutions where he has addressed the issues of education, diversity and American culture. His audiences have included Duke University, UCLA, Howard University, Yale University, Kraft Foods, Corning, Xerox, Disney, American Jewish Committee, the American Library Association, and other organizations around the U.S. and Japan. His research and advice have appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

He launched a campaign to get the U.S. Postal Service to honor Senator Blanche Bruce on a postage stamp, since the nation has never placed a black elected official on a stamp.

A former adjunct professor at Fordham University, Graham has taught African American Studies as well as American Government.

Graham appears weekly as a political commentator on News 12,[citation needed] and he writes Westchester Magazine‍ '​s online political column, Point of View.

He is chairman of the Westchester County Police Board and has served on such other boards as Red Cross of Westchester, the Boy Scouts of America, Princeton Center for Leadership Training, Jack & Jill Foundation, and Council on Economic Priorities.

Graham is Editor at Large of Uptown Magazine.

Graham is also a trustee of SUNY Purchase College Foundation and the Horace Mann School.

Personal life[edit]

Graham is married to corporate executive Pamela Thomas-Graham.[7] They live on Park Avenue in Manhattan and in Chappaqua, New York and have three children.[8][9]

From the 1950s to still even current day, the lunch room can in some places still remain segregated. Students at school in the 1950’s were separated in many ways, but one of the main ones that African American student’s feared the most was going to lunch knowing they had only a few number of table at the end of the lunch room. According to Lawrence Otis Graham’s, The “Black Table” Is Still There, he shares how he was a part of the “black table”. The worst part for him though was the fact that he had to go to school and dread for three hours just to sit at the “black” lunch table. Graham states. “As I look back on twenty-seven years of often being the first and only black person integrating such activities and institutions as…..the one scenario that puzzled me the most then and now is the all black lunch table”. Kids today in some areas still haven’t changed or grasped the idea of multiracial lunch table and some other activities. In his writings he also states that he never actually sat at the all black table. His reasoning was that he did not want to lose any of his white friends. Most of the kids that he walked down to lunch with were the white kids, so he wanted to break the barriers for white kids to sit with the African American kids, and the African American kids to sit with the white kids. The racial terrors didn’t end there. Lawrence Graham also mentions how he thought that the African American kids were almost making this topic linger though out the world. But then he had to go through other things on a daily basis. Every time he would go to a pool parents of white children would pull their children out of the pool in a hurry. Also, at the age of ten his best friend, who was white, told him that it wouldn’t be a great Idea to go to his bar mitzvah, because he would be the only African American kid there. Then one day when he was a kid he realized that is wasn’t the African Americans to blame. He realized that there wasn’t just an all black table, there was also an all Jewish table and an all Irish table. This made him think, and he came to the conclusion that is was a color barrier that must have been the problem. Because some of the white kids would always sit with the Jewish children, but never the African American table. Over the years he had returned to the school where he attended, and always asking himself the same questions. “Why do all those black kids sit together?” and “Why don’t you ever sit with those blacks?” These questions generated by Lawrence Graham raised eyebrows and will always be food for thought. It is interesting to see how the mind of a ten year old worked back then in such hard times. [10]


Graham's books centralize on African-American social class.

  • The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty (2006)[11] - This is the true story of America’s first black dynasty and follows three generations of a family that rose from slavery to the U.S. Senate. Born a Mississippi slave in 1841, Blanche Kelso Bruce amassed a real estate fortune and became the first black person to serve a full Senate term. He married Josephine Willson, the daughter of a wealthy black doctor, and they broke racial barriers as a socialite couple in 1880s Washington, D.C. By hosting white Republicans and blacks like President Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass, Bruce gained appointments under four Presidents, culminating with a US Treasury post which placed his name on all U.S. currency.[12]
  • Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class (1999)[13] - Debutante cotillions. Million-dollar homes. Summers in Martha's Vineyard and Sag Harbor. Membership in The Links, Jack and Jill, Deltas, Boulés, and AKAs. An obsession with the right schools, families, churches, social clubs, and skin complexion. This is the world of the black upper class and the focus of the first book written about the black elite by a member of this hard-to-penetrate group.[12]
  • Proversity: Getting Past Face Value (1997)[14]
  • Member of The Club: Reflections on Life in a Polarized World (1995)[15] - Member of the Club was Graham’s 11th book, but it was the one that brought national recognition to his essays on race, class and politics. This book is best known for revealing Graham’s experience of leaving his successful corporate law practice at one of New York’s largest law firms in order to go undercover as a busboy at a famous Connecticut country club that discriminates against African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and women.[12] An excerpt of this book appeared on the cover of New York Magazine and made it their best-selling issue in the publication’s history.[citation needed]


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  2. ^ "Biography" Retrieved on March 13, 2007
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  10. ^ Graham, Lawrence. The "Black Table" Is Still There. Bedford/St. Martin's. pp. 349–351. 
  11. ^ Lawrence Otis Graham (June 27, 2006). The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty (First Edition ed.). Harper. ISBN 0060184124. 
  12. ^ a b c "List of Books" Retrieved on March 13, 2007
  13. ^ Lawrence Otis Graham (January 6, 1999). Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class (First Edition ed.). Harper. ISBN 0060183527. 
  14. ^ Lawrence Otis Graham (February 5, 1997). Proversity: Getting Past Face Value (First Edition ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0471178187. 
  15. ^ Lawrence Otis Graham (May 1995). Member of The Club: Reflections on Life in a Polarized World (First Edition ed.). Harpercollins. ISBN 0060183519. 

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