Between the World and Me

The Influence of Malcolm X on Ta-Nehisi Coates 12th Grade

The entirety of Coates’ letter writing and consciousness in Between the World and Me shows the influence of the provocative writings and speeches of Malcolm X. After all, Malcolm X became Coates’ favorite writer. The image of a young Malcolm dressed in a sharp business suit, tie hanging askew with one hand parting a window shade and the other holding a rifle, communicated everything that the writer aspired to be: “controlled, intelligent, and beyond the fear.” The desire to overcome his sense of ever-present fear led the author to search for role models who appeared to have overcome theirs. The essential question of Coates’ memoir is “How do I live free in this black body?” He asks himself and other black people how they can live freely, without a constant presence of fear in America. On a deeper level, he also asks how he can transcend the fear and racism that he has experienced through his life and find a way to live peaceably in a world that does not appear to want him. According to Coates, fear was the motivating factor in his youth. He feared the violence of the streets every day--the street gangs who threatened him and his property, physical punishment at home by his parents--an immense amount of time just trying to avoid...

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