Johns Hopkins University, an elite institution located in Baltimore, symbolizes both the chance to succeed as well as the dark reality of segregation, inequality, and injustice. One of the first things we learn about Wes’s mother, Mary, is that she was the first person in her family to attend college, and that after completing her associate’s degree at the Community College of Baltimore, she enrolls at Johns Hopkins. Mary works part-time in order to support herself and her family during her time as a student; however, she is forced to drop out when government cuts mean her Pell grant is terminated. This tragic turn of events serves as a reminder of how difficult access to higher education can be for those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.
The location of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore highlights the extent to which American society is divided into two worlds, which—despite existing side-by-side—can seem like whole separate universes. Moore describes Johns Hopkins as “the beautiful campus you could walk past but not through,” comparing Johns Hopkins’ relationship to Baltimore to that between Columbia University and Harlem and the University of Chicago and the Southside. Despite their proximity to struggling neighborhoods, these elite institutions exist as isolated worlds. Later in the book, Moore is hesitant about the prospect of applying to Johns Hopkins (despite being encouraged to do so by his adviser) because he believes that the university is “full of kids who did not look or sound like me.” It is only after Moore meets the assistant director of admissions, a young black man with whom Moore can personally identify, that he decides to make an application. Moore’s admission into Johns Hopkins and his success once there—he graduates Phi Beta Kappa and is the first African-American Rhodes Scholar in the school’s history—show that it is possible for a person from the “forgotten” side of Baltimore to make it through to the other side. But on the other hand, Moore never forgets that, for those less fortunate than him, the prospect of attending a school like Hopkins will simply never be a serious possibility.
Johns Hopkins University Quotes in The Other Wes Moore
Johns Hopkins University was only five miles from where Mary grew up, but it might as well have been a world away. To many in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins was the beautiful campus you could walk past but not through. It played the same role that Columbia University did for the Harlem residents who surrounded it, or the University of Chicago did for the Southside. It was a school largely for people from out of town, preppies who observed the surrounding neighborhood with a voyeuristic curiosity when they weren't hatching myths about it to scare freshmen. This city wasn't their home. But after completing her community college requirements, Mary attempted the short but improbable journey from the neighborhood to the campus. Her heart
jumped when she received her acceptance letter. It was a golden ticket to another world.