Summary: Part III, pages 136-152

In the final part of his letter, Coates visits Prince Jones’ mother, Dr. Mable Jones. Dr. Jones was born into poverty in Louisiana, the same place her ancestors had been enslaved. At four years old, she recognized the same disparity between herself and the rest of the world which Coates has explained in his letter. Coates briefly wonders whether Samori first senses the gap after the Michael Brown shooting.

Determined to break her family’s cycle of poverty, Dr. Jones decided to become a doctor. She integrated her high school, and while, at first, the white children teased her, by the end, they made her class president. Dr. Jones received a full scholarship to Louisiana State University and became the only Black radiologist she knew, which didn’t bother her at all.  

Coates describes Dr. Jones as a reserved, polite woman with impeccable composure. He can see an ironclad determination in her eyes, which reminds him of his own grandmother. Even when talking about Prince’s death, her eyes well but tears don’t fall. He likens her to photos of Black resisters in 1960s sit-ins. Their eyes remain fixed on the horizon, as if they are summoning some greater power to remain stoic. Dr. Jones speaks about her church, a main source of her strength. Coates wonders whether he has missed out on something by not believing in God. 

Dr. Jones speaks of Prince, whom she calls Rocky after his grandfather. Prince was smart and made friends easily, even as he went to private schools with Dreamers. He was the only Black student at his magnet school in Texas. Dr. Jones gave him and his sister all the things she didn’t have, including vacations and cars. But Prince always loved traveling over material things. Dr. Jones wanted him to attend an Ivy League school, but he only applied to Howard. He wanted to feel normal, not be used as a symbol or diversity parable.  Dr. Jones describes Prince’s death as being physically painful. She says she expected that the police officer who killed him would be charged. Prince’s sister is currently pregnant with a son, which scares Dr. Jones. She knows that nothing can protect his body, because one racist act is all it takes to destroy a Black man.  

After going back to his car, Coates thinks about how much Prince’s family invested in Prince, only for it to disappear with his death. He remembers the photos from the Civil Rights Era, where Black people allowed themselves to be tortured. He used to think it was shameful, but now thinks it is simply true. He says that perhaps the hope of the movement is to awaken the Dreamers so that they realize what they have done to the world. Coates describes going to Homecoming at Howard. He again sees the wide diaspora of Black bodies. Coates feels as if he melts into them and no longer has the “birthmark of damnation.” He describes it as a joyous moment of Black power beyond the Dream.  

Coates’ final pages for Samori are about Black power and the conversion of Dreamers. Coates feels the power in that joyous moment at Howard and believes it is what drew Prince Jones to that university. Black power is the view of America that comes from struggle and invites an understanding of the country as it truly is. It is also a deep understanding of how fragile bodies and the Dream are. Even the Dreamers can feel Black power because, to feel their deepest emotions, they turn to music by Black artists.

Dr. Jones predicts national doom, and Malcolm X said that the Dreamers must reap what they sow. But Coates believes this is too simplistic and that Black people will reap it with them. Just like the Dreamers have plundered Black bodies, they also plunder the physical earth and likely will not stop until the earth stops them. Lastly, Coates urges Samori to struggle with all his questions, but he doesn’t want him to struggle for the Dreamers, only to hope or pray. They will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that their plunder of Black bodies and the earth is the deathbed for everyone. The letter ends with Coates driving through the ghettos, feeling his old familiar fear.

Analysis: Part III, pages 136-152

Coates’ visit to Prince’s mother, Dr. Jones, is both revealing and tragic. He wants to know how she has kept on living in the wake of losing her only son to senseless violence. This interest in her individuality mirrors the way he thinks of the slaves, as complete people to be valued separately from one another. The world seems to have forgotten Prince Jones and his family, but Prince is always on Coates’ mind, so he also thinks a lot about Prince’s family. Coates’ background in journalism certainly helps to give him the courage to call, visit, and interview Dr. Jones, despite having never met her. Coates and Dr. Jones relate to one another right away through their shared observance of the gap between Black and white people. Coates first noticed it on TV, and she first noticed it at four years old. This gap is what propelled Dr. Jones to commit to becoming a doctor. Dr. Jones seems to have a special trait of being so excellent that people cannot help but like, or at least support, her. In four years of high school, she went from a girl who was bullied for her color to being elected class president, the highest esteem her classmates could give her.

Dr. Jones represents the epitome of being “twice as good,” as Black parents tell their children they must be to succeed. By doing everything to the absolute best of her ability, she achieved a medical scholarship in the same state where her ancestors were enslaved. But when Coates asks Dr. Jones if it bothers her that she is the only Black doctor she knows, she seems insulted. This demonstrates how Dr. Jones has learned to rise above the “twice as good” mantra. By refusing to accept the “strangeness” of her position, she attempts to normalize the idea of a Black, female radiologist.

In his way, Prince also refused to give power to the racial divide. Dr. Jones wanted him to go to an Ivy League school because he was a top student, but he only applied to Howard, a historically Black university. In the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, America has tried to “right the wrong” of slavery by accepting more Black students into colleges and universities. This creates a situation that turns Black students into symbols of pride for the schools. In a backwards way, this monetizes the Black body yet again because schools use diversity as a marketing strategy. Prince just wanted to feel normal, and that is why he went to Howard, where he was one Black body amongst many. Coates’ visit to Dr. Jones is revealing because it explains how hard Dr. Jones had worked to get out of poverty and then give her family such a good life, but the tragic reality is that all this hard work and privilege wasn’t enough to keep Prince from getting killed, for no reason at all. Dr. Jones still lives in fear for her new grandson, whom nobody will really be able to protect.

The last pages of the letter portray the complex mix of emotions Coates experiences as a Black man in America. Coates revisits his thoughts about the non-violent protestors, whom he used to shame for giving up their bodies so easily. When he says he wonders if the photos are just “true,” he doesn’t only mean that they just show what happened. He wonders instead whether the protestors knew something he doesn’t. What if sanctity and security of the body never existed in the first place? The photos may have simply portrayed the world as the terrible place that it is. Coates recalls a happy moment of reveling in the Black power of the Howard reunion. His eloquent description of what Black power really means—an experience of great struggle that leads to great understanding—reiterates to Samori that life is truly found in the struggle. The ending warning that white plunder will kill the earth and its people seems to speak directly to the reader, who Coates is aware may well be white. The letter ends as it started, with fear, representing the ever-present cycle of violence that has been pushed on Black people in America for centuries.