Who Failed Robert Peace? Even a Yale Degree Couldn’t Save Him

By Diane Cole

January/February 2015

Review of:

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

By Jeff Hobbs

Scribner. 406 pages

ISBN: 9781476731902

I’ve seldom read a book as riveting and ultimately devastating as The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. With deftly chosen detail and precision, author Jeff Hobbs chronicles the obstacle-ridden rise of Robert Peace, an intensely talented young black man, who went from inner-city poverty to the brink of promise offered by a Yale degree, the bill paid in full by a fairytale-like corporate benefactor impressed by his potential. But what comes next isn’t the inspiring uplift of a rags-to-riches story: it’s the harrowing fall and all-too-quick descent back into the illegal drug and deadly street culture that Peace never seemed to have truly escaped. Murdered at the age of 30, he became another casualty of the lure of the streets.

Long after finishing the book, I remain haunted by Peace’s fate. At what point, I keep wondering, could someone have intervened to change the course of this man’s life? And what would such an intervention—whether from friend or clinician or academic authority or mentor—have looked like?

Hobbs, a college roommate and friend, paints a portrait that offers a variety of clues and suggestions—all of which, unfortunately, spring to the fore…

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