Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A letter to Coates’ teenage son

I learned a new word while reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates, this year’s winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction. I’ll get around to posting a review soon but in the meantime, I give you agitprop.

I remember taking a survey class focusing on Central Africa. My professor, Linda Heywood, was slight and bespectacled, spoke with a high Trinidadian lilt that she employed like a hammer against young students like me who confused agitprop with hard study. There was nothing romantic about her Africa, or rather, there was nothing romantic in the sense that I conceived of it. p. 54

Agitprop was originally a Russian term that combined the words for agitation and propaganda as the name of the department tasked with promoting the Communist party. That’s now a historical use and it’s always capitalized for that meaning.

The word has taken on a more generalized meaning in English to mean political propaganda. It’s often, but not always, used negatively. Some writers seem to like how the term gives an activism spin to things and will use it in a positive way to indicate writing that agitates for change.

Thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary, which I access through my local library, for insights on the word agitprop.

button for Wondrous Words Wednesday memeWondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Agitprop #WondrousWordsWednesday — 3 Comments

  1. Hi Joy, It’s nice to visit your blog after such a long absence. (I’m sorry for the absence.) I like learning this new word. And, you gave us such a rich explanation of it’s meaning too. You also remind me that I have this book and really need to open it up, Thanks.

  2. Hi Joy,

    Quite a complex word, for what sounds like a very complex and challenging storyline.

    This is one of those books which we all should read, but which I have to admit, will probably never hit my own TBR pile.

    Linda sounds like my kind of professor, a few more like her would help to sort out many of the problems we experience with the education standards of our young generation (at least here on this side of the Atlantic!)

    A great word which I am pleased you shared 🙂


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