Where Johns Hopkins symbolizes achievement and opportunity, the Murphy Homes Projects represent the opposite: violence, crime, and wasted potential. Named after the legendary Baltimore educator George Murphy, the Murphy Homes could not be further from Murphy’s legacy. The buildings are in a desperate state of filth and disrepair and are overrun with violent drug crime, such that they are nicknamed “the Murder Homes” by local residents. Wes’s older brother, Tony, spends most of their youth living in the Murphy Homes with his father and grandparents, and Tony’s choice of residence reflects the fact that he has been deep in the drug game from an early age. For Tony, drug crime is not just a way of making money but a reality that totally surrounds him and from which he cannot ever escape.
Toward the end of the book, Moore mentions that Mayor Kurt Schmoke has overseen the demolition of the Murphy Homes Projects as part of his efforts to solve the social problems plaguing West Baltimore. While to some extent this is presented as a sign of progress and success, it also raises questions about what the destruction of the homes will actually solve. Throughout the book, Moore describes the gentrification that forces the urban poor of Baltimore to leave their homes and neighborhoods. At one point Wes ponders what is supposed to happen to all those who are displaced to make way for wealthier, white residents. Does the destruction of the Murphy Homes Projects really address the issues facing Baltimore directly, or is it more of a symbolic gesture that leaves the real problems unresolved?
The Murphy Homes Projects Quotes in The Other Wes Moore
The walls and floors were coated with filth and graffiti. Flickering fluorescent tubes (the ones that weren't completely broken) dimly lit the cinder-block hallways. The constantly broken-down elevators forced residents to climb claustrophobic, urine-scented stairways. And the drug game was everywhere, with a gun handle protruding from the top of every tenth teenager's waistline. People who lived in Murphy Homes felt like prisoners, kept in check by roving bands of gun-strapped kids and a nightmare army of drug fiends. This was where Tony chose to spend his days.