Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Howard University (Symbol)

Howard symbolizes Mecca - the place of pilgrimage for all black people where they can flourish, find acceptance, be themselves, commune, love, and learn.

Coates's First Love (Symbol)

This girl was a symbol of the wider world: "I know now what she was to me - the first glimpse of a space-bridge, a wormhole, a galactic portal off this bound and blind planet" (58).

Battlefields (Symbol)

The battlefields of the Civil War are literal and symbolic reminders of the racial pathologies that have afflicted white Americans for centuries. When Coates is there, he is struck by how they are used by white Americans to symbolize something noble, grand, and ultimately false.

Samori (Symbol)

While the book is absolutely personal and directed to young Samori Coates, Samori himself symbolizes all black boys and girls growing up in an America that callously and blithely destroys black bodies.

Armor (Motif)

There is a frequent motif of black men using armor to protect themselves and to assert their strength, individuality, and humanity. This armor includes clothing, music, loud voices, cursing, gestures and swagger, and guns. This is found all over the country, not just Baltimore or ghetto areas.