Read Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream by David Kushner Online


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 witThe 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....

Title : Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780802716194
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream Reviews

  • Glenn
    2020-01-21 20:54

    I'm surprised I did not know of this story. Two stories, really. On the one hand is the story of the Levitts, who applied the principles of mass production and model communities to provide homes for over a hundred thousand people at a time when there was a need for such housing after World War II. Very interesting story of their creative and practical innovations in building, and the amassment and later the loss of tremendous wealth and renown. On the other hand it is a well-told story of the incredible commitment of an African-American couple and their children to take a stand for the rights of all people to live where they want to, and of the people who fought them and the people who helped them. The author has done his homework, and his description of these events is so detailed you imagine yourself knowing the people involved, and feeling some of the intensity of the struggles--on both sides of the issues. Although the details change, the heart of these conflicts is timeless and ubiquitous. I highly recommend the book.

  • Michelle
    2020-01-27 18:43

    The actual story of the book--the integration of Levittown, PA in the 1950s--was interesting, but the middle of the book was longer than it needed to be. Parts of it were repetitive, and it could've used better editing overall. Sadly, I wasn't too surprised at the reaction of the original Levittowners, or the fact that today it's still 97% white there. Though it was disturbing to learn that there was an small KKK faction at the time as well as several cross-burning incidents.

  • Hillary
    2020-02-18 21:53

    I didn't know much of the history of Levittown, and how its heyday coincided with the civil rights movement. This book was pretty great. Minus a few points for typos, though. I hate that!

  • Jimmy
    2020-01-25 18:36

    Kushner weaves the story of the builders of the Levittown developments with one account of rampant racism in Levittown, PA, in the late 1950s. Fascinating to me, since I lived practically around the corner from the drama but don't recall anything of it. Of course, I was 10 at the time. The book utilizes many archival sources to back up the facts. A good read for those, like me, who have direct links to the area.

  • Muriel Kudera
    2020-01-26 00:52

    I found this story really interesting especially since I knew little about these "Levittowns" in the Northeast. I was upset by the racism which existed in PA, NJ, and NY.

  • Diane
    2020-02-02 20:33

    I have lived in Pennsylvania my entire life including a short time in Bucks County and did not know this story. I knew of Levittown but not this shameful history. It is well told and thought provoking. We should all be grateful for the courage of people like the Myers' and the Wechslers who endured so much to stand up for civil rights. Let's hope that we all can find the courage when it's necessary.

  • Walter
    2020-01-21 20:55

    David Kushner's Levittown is a fascinating and important story of a now almost forgotten and yet important era and episode in America's 20th century history. It relays the story of the Levitts, the most influential builders/developers of the post-WWII era, and of the underside of one of their more unfortunate policies.The story of the suburbanization on America is both interesting and important and the Levitts, and especially number one son Bill, were at the center of this society-changing phenomenon. Their creation of Levittown became the iconic American suburb, a dream community to which so many WWII veterans aspired that it changed our culture. And yet all was not as it seemed in these well-planned communities. In fact, some of the Levitts' policies helped both to create this dysfunction as well as, ultimately, to lead to their demise.Conceptually, the ruthless tycoon referred to in the title is Bill Levitt, the driving force behind his family's development company that became the dominant player in the mid-20th century suburban boom/migration. One of the two titular families referred to is that of William and Daisy Myers. The other family could be the Wechslers, their sponsors, neighbors and friends or the Levitts themselves - that I'm not sure says something.Further, one of the weaknesses of the book is that while the reporting of the pivotal scences of the drama that is at the core of the book is thorough, it is also a bit underwhelming. As much as one can empathize with the plight of the Myers family when they integrate Levittown, PA, the comparisons to the risks taken by other civil rights pioneers can at times seem overdrawn. Yes, they faced real risk, but the net result of the harassing behavior of their fellow residents was in reality minor (at least by today's standards). Perhaps its vehemence was shocking in its time, but in the retelling of it today it seems as if some of the drama (or at least some of the drama that the author wants us to feel) is lost in translation.This being said, this incident is a pivotal one that is largely forgotten today and rightly chronicled in this book. In sum, it is an important story that deserves to be told (even if this retelling is a tad overwrought at points). I recommend this book to students of (American) history, sociology, urbanization/suburbanization, the Civil Rights Movement or anyone who likes to appreciate the un(der)appreciated.

  • marcus miller
    2020-01-30 01:50

    Great book that tells the story of the Levitt family, the growth of the American suburb, American racism, the Civil Rights movement, with a bit of 1950's McCarthyism thrown in for good measure.This book tells an important part of the story of the 1950's, a decade described as the "decade of conformity." I think it is also seen as the golden age for those who espouse a return to traditional values (whatever those are?) This story exposes the often ugly side of the emphasis on conformity.Kushner begins by telling the story of Bill and Abe Levitt, brothers who apply the principles of the assembly line to the home construction business. Seeing that US soldiers returning from WWII will be able to buy houses, the Levitt's begin building a new type of suburb. Planning everything down to the smallest details, the Levitt's make the decision to not sell their homes to African-Americans.The story then shifts to two families. The first family, the Weschlers is a Jewish family which had belonged to the Communist Party during the 1940's. The second is the Meyerses, a African-American family which just wants a bigger home after the birth of their third child. The Meyerses purchase the house next door to the Weschlers and the real problems begin as it becomes apparent that bigotry and racism were not isolated to the South.The story follows the two families as they deal with abusive crowds, cross burnings, and a nonchalant police force. In the face of the ugly hatred, other folks from the region and some from Levittown come to the assistance of the families. In the end, the state government intervenes, the violence aimed at the families comes to an end, and life goes on for everyone. The one exception is Bill Levitt. Kushner describes his fall from power as he continues to try and maintain his racist policies. Eventually his arrogance leads to his downfall. I would recommend this to everyone.

  • Jeanne
    2020-02-20 00:03

    The explosion of suburban growth in the post-War II era was lead by the Levitts. The first Levittown in NY, was wildly successful. It filled a need for the returning vets so that they could start their families in a "safe" long as they were white. The builder, Levitt, required that his houses not be sold to blacks and the government backed him up on that. Shame.Later, Levitt built another community called Levittown in PA. Pretty soon, a black family, a veteran's family, wanted to buy a house in this Levittown. This family was thrust into the forefront of the civil rights movement every bit as much as Rose Parks. The Myers are less well known, but their fight was just as courageous. This book chronicles the intersection of the Levitts, the Myers, racism and the building of suburbia. There is suspense and drama, good people and "misguided" people. It is a piece of history with which I was unfamiliar and now I am not. David Kushner's writing made for a quick read.

  • Libby
    2020-01-29 01:53

    The title suggests something broader than what this book is: the story of integrating the Pennsylvania Levittown in the mid-1950s. But Kushner throws in a lot of other stuff - the Levitt family story, personal histories, and more details about the initial, Long Island, NY Levittown - than is necessary or even useful. And he only briefly mentions more interesting aspects of the racial integration - like the involvement of clergy and various organizing committees, the role of homemakers in the social fabric, recruitment among the opposition by the national KKK, and antipathy towards socialist-leaning organizers. These ommissions are all so relevant to the context (1950s suburbia) that it's a real disservice to the tale. But otherwise, it was a good book.

  • Marti Guthrie
    2020-01-29 01:00

    This is a very good book about a slice of American History that has gone unnoticed for too long. This book is essentially the root of why the Suburbs are mostly made up of White Middle class families. A father and two sons decide to build cookie-cutter homes for veterans returning from WWII to honor them. With a few exceptions. You couldn't be black, jewish, or communist. Yet the creators of this "Levittown" were Jewish. It's a strange and disturbing tale told beautifully by David Kushner. Though I must worn he is a bit repetitive in his writing/story telling.

  • E
    2020-01-25 00:37

    This should be required reading for anyone interested in the dark side of suburbia, or Long Island history (although it mostly focuses on Levittown, PA). Well-researched yet reads in an interesting narrative style. I knew Long Island, and many other parts of the North, had a racist history, but I hadn't realized just how bad it was. I stand in awe of what the Myers family endured, propped up only by a handful of sympathetic neighbors, and their own quiet strength and belief in what is right. Inspiring.

  • Ciarra
    2020-02-01 01:51

    I read Levittown for an assignment at school and it was very informative; however, at times some of the factual information was irrelevant to the story (lol, I guess that's why it's nonfiction). It included a good amount of details on rights, some on the Cold War/McCarthyism, the American Dream, suburban growth/white flight,and more. I enjoyed it; it was an enjoyable read and I learned a lot about the integration of suburban communities.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2020-02-10 21:34

    The Levitts (who were Jews), designed their suburban housing developments to be white and Anti-Semitic. So, when a family of Communist Jews sold a house to African-Americans, the company and its local police force stood back for two months in the summer of 1957 while the "perfect" neighborhood turned into a Confederate flag-waving, rock-throwing, cross-burning mob (with its own ice cream truck) until the state police belatedly intervened.

  • Michael
    2020-02-06 21:52

    In the mid-1950s a black family tried to move to Levittown, Pennsylania, an all-white enclave that helped (along with two other Levittowns) create the prototype for post-War suburbia. This is a thrilling and appalling tale of a racial conflict but also has a lot to say about the rise and fall of the Levitts and their suburban idyll. For those of us who grew up hating suburbia, the book also explains much of the post-war phenomena of why our parents rushed to these greenfields.

  • Riccol
    2020-02-17 02:00

    I stumbled on this book in the "$2.99 or Less" list on my Nook (Barnes & Noble). The more I read the more embarrassed I felt for not having known a thing about this part of American history. Should be required reading for any class on modern American history or civil rights as it does a wonderful job of tying together the entire "mood" of the times it takes place in, something you miss learning just the facts in a class.

  • Tom Schulte
    2020-01-27 23:47

    I knew so little about Levittown; there were many such towns, founder Bill Levitt was a racist assuring covenants no longer valid in the United States... This book is the story of a brave family that broke the Levittown color barrier, their supporters, and the enemies that fomented a race riot to unsuccessfully move them out.

  • Patty
    2020-02-10 02:48

    This was a very well-written, easy to read account of the civil rights struggles in this famous suburb. The author was able to really bring out the humanness of each of the people involved. It was fascinating to read about the civil rights struggle in a way that's not usually focused on- the struggle for blacks to buy decent housing in predominantly white neighborhoods. Very interesting.

  • Lisa
    2020-02-20 23:55

    This book is a great history of racial barriers to fair housing in the US in the 20th century. However, I feel that 2/3 of the way into the book, I'd read the story. No need to continue. I got it. So, did that mean it did not keep my attention, or does it mean that it should have been edited? Not sure.

  • John
    2020-02-05 20:50

    This is a well-written, interesting book about civil rights, specifically in housing after WWII. Though I certainly knew about the rise of Levittown as a source of affordable housing, I wasn't aware of the racist policies of the Levitts. The book shows the courage of several families as they fought to integrate Levitttown, Pennsylvania, a very uplifting tale.

  • Laura
    2020-02-21 18:33

    I really liked this. I knew about Levittown and the houses "all made of ticky-tacky" but had no idea Levitt had an official whites-only policy. This book told the fascinating story of how some very brave families forced integration in the Pa. Levittown.

  • Curt
    2020-02-08 22:03

    Once you get beyond the author's sledgehammer good guy vs bad guy language, a fascinating story. When it comes to nonfiction with a moral backdrop, I think I've been spoiled by Egger's pitch-perfect approach in Zeitoun.

  • Carolyn
    2020-02-16 20:58

    An interesting read!

  • Brian Saul
    2020-02-18 03:02

    Amazing account of small-minded people of the big city in post WWII America. Not a scholarly account, some repetition of facts, but a fascinating "must read" for all I'd say.

  • Author G DGrace
    2020-02-01 02:37

    Become friends with, David Kushner on GoodReads in August.... decided to promote his book just because he's a fellow writer. His writings look extremely interesting.

  • Jeffrey
    2020-01-27 02:01

    If this were fiction, one would think it's a far stretch...interesting and a disturbing slice of history. I only gave it two star, because it wasn't particularly well written.

  • Gary
    2020-02-15 21:40

    This was a really good book. It has a lot of thick history but doesn't feel like it while you're reading

  • Stacie
    2020-01-30 01:41

    4.5 stars. I like his writing style, and I found the book very interesting. It held my interest throughout.