The Two Wes Moores: One Name, Two Fates

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Who are the two Wes Moores? How could two men with such similar pasts end up in completely different places?

The two Wes Moores share a name, birthplace, and similar childhoods. Yet, one of the two Wes Moores is a Johns Hopkins University graduate and the first black Rhodes Scholar. The second of the two Wes Moores is in prison for involvement in the murder of a police officer. One name, two fates.

Read on to learn how the fates of the two Wes Moores collided.

The Two Wes Moores

In 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran several stories about two young men named Wes Moore. One story was filled with accolades for Wes Moore, a recent Johns Hopkins University graduate who had received the prestigious honor of becoming the first black Rhodes Scholar—an academic postgraduate award granting fellows the opportunity to study at Oxford University in England—in university history. The others stories were about a jewelry store burglary that resulted in the heinous murder of an undercover police officer. In these stories, Wes Moore was the target of a massive manhunt and eventually one of the suspects charged in the crime. 

The commonality in the names sparked the Johns Hopkins graduate and decorated military service member’s interest in the story. Moore felt a strange connection with this other Wes Moore because of their shared histories. The two Wes Moores were originally from West Baltimore, the impoverished and gang-heavy community located in Baltimore City, The two Wes Moores also grew up during the same era, and both were raised by single mothers. 

The glaring disparity in their trajectories caused Moore to wonder where their paths had diverged. He wondered what had allowed him to succeed and the other Wes Moore to end up serving a life sentence in prison. He decided to reach out via letter to the prison and was surprised to receive a response shortly after. 

One Name, Two Fates

What started was a friendship and a journey into their pasts. Moore began to visit Wes in prison. He felt there was something to try to understand regarding their life paths. He believed there was a larger meaning to their intersecting origins and diverging futures. 

From the stories shared through glass dividers in the prison’s visiting room and interviews with other significant people in both their lives, Moore wrote this book to seek an answer to the question, “Why him and not me?” He organizes his book into eight chapters, with each chapter representing a significant year for both men. It shows how they had one name, but two fates.

Moore is adamant that he is not passing judgement on Wes’s behavior or excusing his participation in the murder of a father of five. His book aims to examine the circumstances that influence decisions and opportunities in the two Wes Moores’ lives, both personally and socially. Finally, Moore aims to show that we are not merely a representation of our actions. Wes’s involvement in the book is a testament to the possibility of humanity even in the face of evil. 

At the end of the day, Moore knows everyone has choices, and the choices you make are yours alone, even if the circumstances and influences are negative. Moore makes no allowances or excuses for Wes’s choices. But he also can’t discount the impact of positive influence in his. The solution, perhaps, is support. Society cannot predict who will make the right choices, but society should ensure that each young person, regardless of economic or demographic considerations, is provided the tools and resources needed to see all the options before they choose.

The Two Wes Moores: One Name, Two Fates

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Wes Moore's "The Other Wes Moore" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Other Wes Moore summary:

  • How two men from similar communities can have vastly different lives
  • What led one Wes Moore to become a Rhodes Scholar
  • What led the other Wes Moore to a life sentence

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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