Throwback Thursday: Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Police Killing of Prince Jones

One of the Washington Monthly’s best and most underused assets is our archive. There are more than 45 years’ worth of articles and essays from very talented writers, many of which ring just as true today as they did at the time of publication. With this in mind, we’re rolling out a new Throwback Thursday feature — each week we’ll highlight a different article from the stacks that you may have missed because you weren’t subscribing at the time. (Or weren’t born yet.)

Our first throwback is a Ta-Nehisi Coates story from our June 2001 issue. Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me, discusses his Howard University classmate Prince Jones, who was killed by a Prince George’s County police officer in 2000. While Prince George’s was one of the wealthiest majority-black counties in the country, its police department had earned a reputation for shootings and brutality. Coates writes:

Prince Jones had made it through, and still they had taken him. And even though I already knew that I would never believe any account that justified this taking, I sat down to read the story. There were very few details. He had been shot by a PG County officer, not in PG County, not even in D.C., but somewhere in Northern Virginia. Prince had been driving to see his fiancée. He was killed yards from her home. The only witness to the killing of Prince Jones was the killer himself. The officer claimed that Prince had tried to run him over with his jeep, and I knew the prosecutors would believe him.

Less than a year after the shooting, Coates wrote “Black and Blue” for the Monthly. It’s a look at Jones’ death, the local and national reaction, and the questions surrounding Prince George’s County. Why can’t the country’s richest black suburb do more about its police brutality problem? Give it a read.

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Matt Connolly

Matt Connolly works for a labor union in Washington, D.C. He was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2015 to 2017.