The Ultimate “Between the World and Me” Reference Guide

ta-nehisi coates between the world and me

More and more people are flocking to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letter to his son turned national bestseller, Between the World and Me. I read it and was able to pick up a lot to think about in only 150 pages. I will definitely be re-reading soon, this time with pen in hand. This post is for anyone; whether you are just preparing to read, currently reading or already finished with Between the World and Me. The sheer number and diversity of people, places, works and events that are referenced ensure that you would need a quick Google at least a handful of times. I think that possibly only Coates knows ALL of these without having to look some up. I did not include the places in the book (e.g. street names) but tried to quickly define/provide context for what Coates writes about. Please let me know if someone or something was mentioned that I did not include.  Anything in there more than once will be listed chronologically by first appearance. This list serves as a who’s who, study guide, reading companion, and whatever I’m sure you will think of! Please also use this space for any discussion you would like to have regarding the book. What does the Shelfie Generation think of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me?


Sonia Sanchez, page 3 – poet and author of over 16 books, associated with BAM.

Eric Garner, page 9 – man choked to death by police in Staten Island, caught on camera on 7/17/14

Renisha McBride, page 9 – 19 year old who was shot while looking for help after crashing her car in Michigan on 11/2/13

John Crawford, page 9 – man shot in Walmart in Ohio when he was walking around the store with a bb gun on 8/5/14

Tamir Rice, page 9 – 12 year old that was shot by police when playing with a toy gun in Ohio on 11/22/14

Marlene Pinnock, page 9 – woman who received $1.5 million after being punched by California Highway Patrol which was caught on video

Michael Brown, page 11 – shot by police after allegedly “charging” at them in Ferguson, Missouri on 8/9/14. Event/Trial were tipping point in Ferguson..

Nas “What Goes Around”, page 26 – song from the Queensbridge emcee’s 5th album Stillmatic.

Freedom Riders, page 32 – group of activists that rode a bus through the South during the summer of 1961 to protest segregation

Freedom Summers, page 32 – a voter registration project that took place in Mississippi in 1964

Malcolm X, page 34 – major activist in Civil Rights Movement.

Nat Turner, page 37 – slave who led slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831

Harriet Tubman, page 37 – ex-slave that helped other slaves escape the South

Cudjoe, page 37 – Maroon leader in Jamaica that led fights against the English

Michael Jackson, page 37 – one of the biggest musicians and pop stars ever

Million Man March, page 37 – a protest led by Minister Louis Farrakhan held in Washington DC on 10/16/95

Ice Cube Death Certificate, page 37 – second solo album from the Compton emcee

TV Show “Eyes on the Prize” – Black Power Episodes, page 37 – tv show narrated by Julian Bond covering major events from Civil Rights Movement from 1954-85

Fred Hampton Sr, page 39 – major activist with Black Panther Party. Killed by US government on 12/4/69

Mark Clark, page 39 – major activist with Black Panther Party. Killed with Fred Hampton

Stokely Carmichael fka Kwame Touré, page 39 – activist and philosopher from Civil Rights Movement

COINTELPRO, page 39 – COunter INTELigence PROgram covert missions taken by FBI

Charles Drew, page 40 – surgeon and medical researcher

Amiri Baraka, page 40 – dramatist, novelist and poet who began during Civil Rights Movement

Thurgood Marshall, page 40 – Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court 67-91

Ossie Davis, page 40 – actor and social activist

Doug Wilder, page 40 – former governor of Virginia from 1990-94

David Dinkins, page 40 – former mayor of New York City 1990-93

Lucille Clifton, page 40 – poet and former Poet Laureate

Toni Morrison, page 40 – Pulitzer Prize winning author of 11 books

Ausar-Auset Society, page 41 – Pan-African Religious Organization founded in 1973

Bob Marley “Redemption Song”, page 41 – song from the reggae legend’s 12th album Uprising

Zora Neal Hurston, page 41 – notable author of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Kenneth Clark, page 41 – psychologist and activist during Civil Rights Movement

Frederick Douglass, page 41 – ex-slave that became one of the leaders of abolitionist movement

Mohamed Ali fka Cassius Clay, pager 41 – heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Joined NOI and refused to join army after draft.

Ira Aldridge, page 41 – American stage actor in 19th Century

Song “My Favorite Things”, page 41 – show tune original from “The Sound of Music”

Song “Someday My Prince Will Come”, page 41 – song originally from Disney’s “Snow White”

Alain Locke, page 41 – Rhodes scholar who became author and philosophy

bell hooks, page 42 – pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins, author and social activist

Frantz Fanon, page 42 – Afro-Caribbean writer, philosopher and revolutionary

Saul Bellow, page 43 – Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winning author

Leo Tolstoy, page 43, 45 – Russian author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina and more.

Magazine, The Source, page 44 – legendary and influential hip hop magazine partly responsible for the growth of the culture

Magazine, Vibe, page 44 – another legendary hip hop magazine, founded by Quincy Jones

Greg Tate, page 44 – writer and musician with articles in Rolling Stone and more

Mao Zedong, page 44 – former Chairman of the Communist Party of China in 20th Century

dream hampton, page 44 – writer, filmmaker, critic heavily entwined with hip hop history

Alfred W. Crosby Children of the Sun, page 44 – a book about the places that humans have tapped for energy

Drusilla D Houston Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, page 44 – Houston’s attempt to discover African history from an African American perspective

Cheikh Anta Diop The African Origins of Civilization, page 44 – theory that ancient Egypt was a black civilization

J.A. Rogers, page 45 – author, journalist and historian

John Jackson, page 45 – Pan-Africanist historian, writing featured in Garvey’s Negro World

Mansa Musa, page 45 – 10th Emperor or King of Male in 13th Century

Shabaka, page 45 – Kushite pharaoh of Egypt in 700 BC

Yaa Asantewaa, page 45 – Queen Mother of Ashanti group in Ghana in 19th Century, lead a major rebellion against British Army

Ashanti aka Asante, page 45 –one of the people that live in Ghana

Queen Nzinga, page 45 – Queen of the Mbundu people in Angola in 17th Century

Larry Neal, page 46 – scholar of theatre heavily involved in Black Arts Movement

Eric Williams, page 46 – first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago

George Padmore, page 46 – Trinidadian journalist and author on Pan-Africanism

Stanley Crouch, page 46 – jazz critic, novelist and poet

Harold Cruse, page 46 – author, professor and revolutionary

Manning Marable, page 46 – historian and social critic

Addison Gayle, page 46 – literary critic

Carolyn Rodgers, page 46 – poet and founder of Third World Press

Etheridge Knight, page 46 – poet, especially known for Poems from Prison

Sterling Brown, page 46 – poet and professor

Langston Hughes, page 47 – poet and social activist

W.E.B. Du Bois, page 47 – author and civil rights activist

Marcus Garvey, page 47 – huge proponent of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism

CLR James, page 47 – historian and journalist

Basil Davidson, page 47 – British author and historian that wrote in favor of African history

Franklin Frazier, page 47 – doctorate of sociology in 20th Century

Melville J. Herskovitz, page 47 – anthropologist who played big part in getting African American studies to be accepted in academia

Martin Delany, page 47 – one of the first proponents of Black Nationalism

James “Bubber” Miley, page 50 – jazz trumpet and cornet player in Duke Ellington’s orchestra

Otis Redding, page 50 – soul singer inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who received Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Sam and Dave, page 50 – an R&B duo consisting of Sam David Moore and David Prater

CK Williams, page 50 – American poet of the 20th Century

Carolyn Forché, page 50 – poet and social activist

Ethelbert Miller, page 50 – writer and literary activist, founded Humanities Council of Washington DC

Kenneth Carroll, page 50 – contemporary poet

Brian Gilmore, page 50 – contemporary poet

Joel Dias-Porter, page 50 – contemporary poet

Robert Hayden, page 51 – poet of many poems including “Middle Passage”

Ralph Wiley, page 56 – journalist and author featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN and more. Coates references Dark Witness

Wu-Tang Clan, page 56 – a 9 man hip hop group/collective from Staten Island New York

Adina Howard, page 60 – 1990s platinum selling R&B Singer

Bob Marley Exodus, page 61 – the 9th album by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Notorious BIG “One More Chance”, page 61 – song from Biggie’s 1st album Ready to Die

Notorious BIG “Hypnotize”, page 61 – song from Biggie’s 2nd album Life After Death

Samori Touré, page 61 – founder of the Wassoulou Empire in present-day Guinea

Derrick Bell, page 61 – civil rights attorney, activist, Harvard Law professor

Elmer Clay Newman, page 75 – died in police custody and did not receive proper medical attention on 9/22/99

Gary Hopkins, page 75 – killed by police in Maryland on 11/27/99

Freddie McCollum, page 75 – received $4.1 million after police beat him to the point he lost an eye

Prince Carmen Jones, page 77 – shot by police in his car on 9/1/00

Joseph Lowery, page 77 – minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in Civil Rights Movement

Cornel West, page 77 – philosopher, activist, author

Calvin Butts, page 77 – pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church

Book World Book, page 81 – a set of encyclopedia published in USA

Book Childcraft, page 81 – children encyclopedias

Mary Jane Girls “All Night Long”, page 84 – 1983 pop song

Movie “Crossing Delancey”, page 86 – 1988 movie starring Amy Irving

Movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, page 86 – 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn

Movie “Working Girl”, page 86 – 1988 movie starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford

Bin Laden, page 87 – former head of Al-Qaeda

Movie “Howl’s Moving Castle”, page 93 – 2005 animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Abner Louima, page 95 – was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by police in custody in 1997

Anthony Baez, page 95 – man who died in police custody possibly due to asthma or police choking

Jackie Robinson, page 96 – first Black baseball player to play in the MLB

Trayvon Martin, page 96 – 17 year old who was shot by neighbor on 2/26/12 in Florida

Sean Bell, page 96 – shot by police morning of wedding 11/25/06

Richard Nixon, page 97 – 27th President of the United States

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, page 99 – Nobel prize winning Russian novelist

James K. Polk, page 101 – 11th President of the United States

George Pickett, page 102 – general for Confederate States in the Civil War

Robert E. Lee, page 102 – commander for Confederate Army in the Civil War

William Faulkner, page 102 – Nobel Prize winning author of The Sound and the Fury and more

John Carter, page 103 – fictional character that first appeared in A Princess of Mars

TV Show “The Dukes of Hazzard”, page 103 – TV show that takes place in the South

John C. Calhoun, page 104 – American politician

Thavolia Glymph Out of the House of Bondage, page 105 – 2008 book about plantation life

Ghostface Killah, page 117 – one of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan

James Baldwin, page 122 – writer, social critic, activist

Richard Wright, page 122 – author who was controversial for his time

Jean-Paul Sartre, page 122 – Nobel Prize winning French philosopher

Albert Camus, page 122 – Nobel Prize winning French author

OutKast “West Savannah”, page 123 – song from the Georgia duo’s 3rd album Aquemini

Jordan Davis, page 130 – shot when he refused to turn his music down on 11/23/12 in Florida

Kajieme Powell, page 130 – mentally imbalanced man shot by police when he approached with a knife in Missouri

Martin Luther King, page 131 – major Civil Rights Movement activist, SCLC

The Commodores “Three Times a Lady”, page 140 – 1978 song from The Commodores 8th album Natural High

Buck Rogers, page 143 – fictional character from movies and comics

Prince Aragorn, page143 – fictional character from The Lord of the Rings

Solomon Northrup, page 145 – freeman who was kidnapped and forced into slavery before became free and wrote 12 Years a Slave

Mobb Deep, page 149 – hip hop duo from Queensbridge, New York.


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