Summary of Epilogue
By his junior year at Brown in 1997, Cedric is like any other student, with a B average, and his old issues are mostly gone. Challenges are met and are not major roadblocks anymore. Suskind concludes, “It is a particularly long journey from one edge of America to the other these days, and a passage few can manage” (p. 362). Phillip Atkin, for instance, still works in the mailroom. LaTisha Williams dropped out of UDC and joined a fundamentalist church. James Davis dropped out of Florida A & M and was shot selling drugs on the street. His brother Jack was arrested for murder. Cedric rarely speaks to kids from Ballou. Cedric Gilliam was rehabilitated and works as a drug counselor. He and Cedric are building their relationship.
Barbara Jennings still works for the Department of Agriculture and moved to the house on 15th Street where she does not pay rent and saved up enough to pay off her debts. Barbara and Cedric spend holidays together. Cedric and Rob became friends in their sophomore year. Zayd went abroad for his junior year and stays in touch with Cedric. Cedric spends more time with blacks now and is dating Nicole Brown, a basketball player. “The more things Cedric tries, the more things he is able to try” (p. 364). He majored in applied math. He has survivor’s guilt about his journey out of the ghetto but remembers that hope “built the country” (p. 365) and that it is only his faith and hope that separate him from others who don’t make it.
Commentary on Epilogue
The epilogue is like film epilogues that show what happened to the main characters. Unfortunately, the students from Ballou don’t fare too well, and the epilogue documents that Cedric is an unusual person to be able to rise above his background. Poverty is more than just a question of money. Education was Cedric’s vehicle for transformation, and his drive was the fuel. Was he lucky, or did his own character help to open the doors? People recognized that Cedric was special and wanted to help him. Cedric himself does not feel comfortable that he was one of the few to make it. His subsequent careers show that he wanted to make a difference for others. In a revised Afterword in the 2005 edition of the book, we see Cedric as a social worker in Washington, D. C. who deals with tough cases, children at risk. He has been on Oprah and speaks regularly around the country. Suskind denies that Cedric is a genius; he is “driven by the tough choices” he made (p. 375). Jennings eventually got two master’s degrees, in social work, and in education, and as of 2008 was working on a Ph.D. in psychology.