Mable Jones

Dr. Mable Jones is Prince Jones’s mother. Wanting to know more about Prince and about the impact his death has had on the lives of his loved ones, Ta-Nehisi Coates visits her in Part III of Between the World and Me. He finds Dr. Jones living in a small, affluent gated community near Philadelphia. Though a reserved woman, she welcomes Coates into her house and tells him about her life and her son. Coates describes her as middle-aged, “lovely, polite, brown,” and “what people once referred to as ‘a lady’ ”; in this, and in the “iron in her eyes” when she tells him about her youthful resolve to make a better life for herself than the lives her parents lived, she reminds him of his grandmother.

Mable Jones was born near Opelousas, Louisiana, the same region where her ancestors had been slaves. Her father was a sharecropper, and her family was very poor. She recalls first becoming aware of racism at the age of four, when her mother explained to her that they had to sit at the back of the bus. Determined not to live the way her parents did, Jones decided in second grade that she would become a doctor. As a child she performed Bible recitations, and as a teenager she integrated her local high school, where she ran track. The white students there insulted her at first, and Jones fought back, but eventually she was voted class president. She won a full scholarship to college, attended medical school at Louisiana State University, then enlisted in the Navy. She trained in radiology and became the only black radiologist she knew. By the time Prince was in high school, she was chief radiologist at the local hospital.

The success Dr. Jones worked so hard to attain allowed her to give her children—Prince and a daughter—a life entirely unlike the one with which she grew up. She took them on ski trips, visited Europe with them, and bought them cars (including the jeep in which Prince was killed). Yet none of this, she tells Coates, was enough to protect her son from the “one racist act” that took his life.