A Memoir


By Brandon P. Fleming

Foreword by Cornel West

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An inspiring memoir of one man’s transformation from a delinquent, drug-dealing dropout to an award-winning Harvard educator through literature and debate—all by the age of twenty-seven.

Brandon P. Fleming grew up in an abusive home and was shuffled through school, his passing grades a nod to his skill on the basketball court, not his presence in the classroom. He turned to the streets and drug deals by fourteen, saved only by the dream of basketball stardom.
When he suffered a career-ending injury during his first semester at a Division I school, he dropped out of college, toiling on an assembly line, until depression drove him to the edge. Miraculously, his life was spared.

Returning to college, Fleming was determined to reinvent himself as a scholar—to replace illiteracy with mastery over language, to go from being ignored and unseen to commanding attention. He immersed himself in the work of Black thinkers from the Harlem Renaissance to present day. Crucially, he found debate, which became the means by which he transformed his life and the tool he would use to transform the lives of others—teaching underserved kids to be intrusive in places that are not inclusive, eventually at Harvard University, where he would make champions and history.

Through his personal narrative, readers witness Fleming’s transformation, self-education, and how he takes what he learns about words and power to help others like himself. Miseducated is an honest memoir about resilience, visibility, role models, and overcoming all expectations.




I could not seem to die. I opened my eyes in a hospital bed, the faint beeping of a monitor signaling I had been given a second chance I did not want. I was still here. Forced to see, hear, feel, and face the reality I had desperately tried to flee. I did not want to feel anymore, but I felt. I felt cold. I felt pain. I felt alone.

I scanned the room searching for the culprit, the one who was no friend of mine for dragging me back to the life I was desperate to leave. How could they? I did not want to be saved. I wanted to be free. And if they could feel, see, or sense my anguish, they would not have thwarted my exit, barring the door to my escape. They would have opened it. They would have let me through.

“Mr. Fleming?” My rush of angry, frustrated thoughts was stilled by a gentle, compassionate voice. “Mr. Fleming, how are you feeling?”

I averted my eyes from the infusion pump to a petite woman dressed in white. Her blonde hair was backlit and luminescent. She looked harmless enough, but I felt vulnerable, exposed, weak. Surely she would take one look at me and see everything, all the insecurities that fueled my cowardly desire to run. Surely she would see I had no reason to be alive. I felt ashamed to be here, in this room, receiving this attention. It took a while for me to gather the courage to look at her. At her soft gray eyes that made me somehow feel safe. Her smile was perfectly appropriate. It was subtle enough to respect my circumstance yet assertive enough to assure me that everything would be okay.

“Here, drink this.” She gently braced my neck as she held a bowl of gritty black liquid to my lips. “This is activated charcoal. It will help to dissolve the drugs you took.”

I grimaced as I gulped the elixir. It tasted like cement mixed with the castor oil my aunt made me drink as a child. As I gagged through the last swallow, the nurse dabbed the corners of my mouth and carefully nestled my head back at rest. She promised to return to check on me and disappeared through the veil that separated me from other patients.

I did not want her to leave. She was all I had. My feeble hand lifted and beckoned her to stay, but I did not have the strength to speak. Wide-eyed, I lay back and gazed at the ceiling as tears welled in the gutters of my eyes and streamed slowly down the contours of my face, dissolving in the stubble on my chin. I was alone—with my thoughts, my feelings, and the life I did not want.

Lying there, I thought about the day before. It was my last shift on the assembly line of Vitamin Manufacturing. I was an eighteen-year-old college dropout dating a girl whose mother insisted that I try to earn a living. My girlfriend had not yet developed a radar for detecting low-lives, so her mother had intervened with a passive-aggressive introduction to the local temp agency. In this way, she’d avoided challenging her daughter’s taste in men while also demonstrating her distaste for jobless suitors. I had no education, no resources, and no skills, so menial labor was my only hope for making a decent living.

The agency had assigned me to a vitamin plant in Anderson, South Carolina, about twenty miles from Greenville, where I’d finished high school almost two years prior. Mom’s deployment to Iraq had separated and scattered my siblings and me. Sierra was twenty-two and had gone to live with her boyfriend. Barry was a year older than me and had gone to live with his father in New York. I’d moved to Greenville, where I temporarily stayed with my aunt. Ben, the youngest of us, was the only one with nowhere to go. So he’d gone with me until Mom’s return.

Mom was away in Iraq for a year. She was now back home in suburban Washington, DC, settling into civilian life as a retired veteran. She, too, had no job, no education, and limited resources. And she did not have the emotional capacity to take me back in. She was tired, and getting older. Raising us took everything she had, between Sierra’s teenage pregnancy, Barry’s street fights, and my drug peddling. After all that strife, she was still not yet an empty nester, watching my little brother—now at home with her—be kept back in school while he followed my footsteps into delinquency and danger. Instead of intervening and imposing strict rules like she’d tried with us, she raised her hands in surrender because she had nothing left to give. The chances that she would take me in, after I’d gone off to college and dropped out my first semester, were unfavorable. “When you turn eighteen,” she’d always said, “you’re on your own.” And she’d meant it. Now I jumped from house to house, sleeping on couches and floors belonging to friends whose parents were kind enough to shelter an unemployed boy who was barely a man. But even those kind parents had a threshold.

One of those friends was Kevin. His family allowed me to make a pallet on their living room floor. The floor was much more comfortable than their derelict sofa, whose yellow cushion seeped through the abrasions in the aging leather. They gave me six months, but under one condition: I was to maintain a job or be out of the house looking for one during business hours. For a few months they had kicked me out and banned my reentry until 5 p.m. each day. But instead of job searching, I spent most of that time with my girlfriend. Until her mother self-aligned with Kevin’s parents in trying to pressure me into responsibility. That’s when I’d started at the temp agency.

Once I began work at the vitamin factory, my old-fashioned tabletop alarm clock blared at 5 a.m. each morning. I despised the dreadful sound. I swiped blindly at the clock, my face still buried in the pillow, hoping to hit snooze, or I yanked the cord from the wall to silence the damn thing. New days were nothing to look forward to. Sometimes I would lie there in the dark contemplating my options, which were few. Reluctantly, I rose, donning my blue long-sleeved coveralls and boots, remembering the imposed conditions of my stay.

I was out the door by 5:30 a.m. In my Honda Accord, I’d blaze down a dark freeway as day was breaking. I’d lower the windows and blast the music to fight back drowsiness. I tried coffee. I tried Red Bull. But my heavy eyelids and grizzly yawns never acclimated to the early rise.

The factory was a dystopia. No one laughed. No one smiled. No one hugged in the morning. The first-shift workers filed into the factory like androids, punching our time cards and fastening our goggles, assuming our positions on the assembly line, where we’d slave for the next ten hours.

I was there to collect a check, like everyone else. But I had never labored so hard in my life. The assembly line was about twelve feet long. I’d start on one end of the machine, where the forklift drivers delivered endless boxes. The towering stack nearly rose to the ceiling whenever I fell behind. The forklift man would grow increasingly irritable and growl, “Pick it up! You’re slowing me down!” I’d be going as fast as I could, but sharp spasms would shoot through my spine from the bending and rising and bending and rising to break down boxes and load bottles into the machine. Then I’d sprint to the middle section of the line, where another forklift operator piled bins of vitamins that had to be poured into the machine. But the vitamins were gelled and stuck together. To break them up enough for the machine to ingest, I had to deadlift each twenty-pound bin, lofting it over my head and slamming it on the floor. I’d reach my hand into the bin to loosen the capsules that were stuck together, gagging as I inhaled the abysmal stench. I’d do an overhead press with a bin as I climbed a ten-foot ladder to the mouth of the machine. After dumping the vitamins, I’d climb back down and dash to the end of the line to help screw caps on the bottles. Then I’d run to the front of the line to start all over—for ten hours a day, six days a week.

On this day, I was supposedly unpacking boxes of bottles and lining them up on the conveyor belt when Rita, my line leader, caught me daydreaming. Every chance I got, I stopped and leaned against the machine to catch my breath while thinking, I can’t do this shit. But I was quickly reminded that I had no choice. On this occasion, I was imagining the life I wanted—one where I didn’t have to sacrifice my sanity and my body while toiling like a cotton picker in high August for a measly two dollars above minimum wage.

“Watch out!” Rita screamed from the end of the line, snapping me back to my miserable reality.

I rushed to organize bottles on the belt, but it was too late. The timer opened the valve that dispensed vitamins into waiting bottles, but no bottles were in place. Pound after pound of gelled capsules spilled onto the conveyor, quickly building a mountain that became an avalanche onto the factory floor. Another coworker slammed the emergency button and the entire machine jerked to a halt. I stood in shock, breathless and ankle-deep in pills. I felt laser beams of anger from my coworkers’ eyes hit me like the red dot of a sniper’s sight.

“What the hell are you doin’?” Rita shouted. Her voice was a thunderstorm. She looked like her grandchildren might call her Big Mama. She was as large as Tyler Perry and she was channeling Madea in a towering, dramatic rage. Her voice was so terrifying that, at first, I could not raise my eyes to see the expression on her face. I flipped through a mental index of excuses that might break the tension but came up empty. Finally, I looked at her and said nothing, hoping she would somehow take pity on my youth.

A few seconds of awkward silence was broken by her sigh. Hands on her hips, she rolled her eyes as if she felt sorry for me. We were all dressed in the same coveralls, face mask, and elastic nets on our head and shoes. The place felt like the contemporary hotbox version of a plantation. This one was filled with industrial workers tending robotic machines and looking as busy as possible when “Massa” strolled by our stations with his checklist and clipboard. I was tired. Tired of the same steps, same movements, same people, same routines. Every minute. Every hour. And every single day. It was a living nightmare of drudgery on an endless loop.

Rita grabbed me by the arm and whisked me off to the side. Once out of the other workers’ hearing range, she released my arm and returned her hands to her hips. She looked carefully over both shoulders and pulled down her face mask. “The hell you doin’ in here anyway, boy?” I didn’t understand why she was whispering so aggressively. “You ain’t got no damn business being in this factory.” Her tone sounded like she was telling me a secret—like she wasn’t mad anymore. She seemed sympathetic and loving. But this was that hard love, like when Mama says, “I’m doing this because I love you” before she swings the belt across your hind. For a moment it felt like she knew me. Her voice sounded like she loved me, like she knew something that I didn’t. It felt like she was begging me to get out.

“I dr-dropped out of college,” I muttered. I flinched as her hands flew from her hips. Her arms folded across her chest, she leaned forward and hissed, “You did what?” Her tone had shifted toward the one she used when the pills hit the floor. I was confused by the sound of rage layered with disappointment and a touch of love. I barely knew her but, in that moment, I felt like her son.

“Look around this room, boy.” With one hand she gripped my arm and with the other she made a sweeping gesture. Instantly, I knew what she wanted me to see. I saw a warehouse full of blue bodies moving as fast as foot traffic in Times Square. I saw hundreds of intense faces moist from labor. I saw dozens of backs hunched with soreness and fatigue. I saw drudges sneak tiny moments of relief each time their machines were temporarily inactive. That’s what I saw: a seemingly endless cycle of heaviness and hopelessness. And I couldn’t bear to look anymore. I wanted to run back to the dream where I had been before I screwed up with the bottles. Those daydreams were often my only fleeting moments of escape. Sometimes nostalgia made the hours pass quicker. My mind left the factory in those moments and traveled back in time to relive basketball triumphs. I replayed championship wins. I reenacted game-winning shots by counting down, “Three… two… one” and making a buzzer sound as I held my arm arched in the air after shooting bottles into the mouth of the machine. It made me remember the time when I once had a purpose. And I smiled. But then Rita’s desperate voice yanked me back into reality.

Rita’s voice quivered through her gritted teeth. “Do you understand what the people in this shithole would have done to trade places with you? Don’t you know you threw away your golden ticket?” Her grip got tighter. “Don’t you?” she exclaimed.

I didn’t. But I would soon.

I sat in the cafeteria during my lunch break, turned to stone by Rita’s words. I held a sandwich in my left hand but couldn’t raise it to my mouth. I could only stare straight, paralyzed by the image Rita had forced me to confront, and overwhelmed by a truth I carried inside me but had somehow ignored. There was no one else my age. They were all older, two and three times my senior. I could see their sullen faces in my sleep. Temp workers were overjoyed when the factory switched their employment to permanent jobs. They celebrated the announcements, cheering, “I got on!” in the cafeteria when they won the coveted positions like they were grand prizes. I could not understand it, because it seemed like we were all just stuck in sinking sand.

My anxiety soared at the thought of getting such an offer, and of being there forever. Rita’s voice echoed in my head: I had thrown away my golden ticket, she said. My golden ticket. It sounded so beautiful, so liberating, yet so far from reach. And here I was, in the factory lunchroom, wondering if I could ever get it back.

I laid my head down on the table for the last few minutes of my lunch break. Moments later, I was jolted awake by the commotion of people being herded back to work. I did not want to go. Before I could rise from my seat, my eyes caught the movement of the third-shift workers clocking out. I watched them punch their yellow time cards and disappear into the blinding sunlight breaking through the doorway, wishing that I, too, could be cast into that emancipating glow.

Above the door was a bright red EXIT sign.

“Come on, son,” said Rita. “Break is over.” Rita touched my shoulder as she passed by, but I did not move. I was captivated by the sign I had seen a million times but never like this. Those four boxy letters spoke to me in a way they never had before. The sign was summoning me to leave, to get out, to seize my one and only chance. So I listened. And I left. I got up and walked straight through the door into the parking lot. I got in my car, I drove away, and I did not look back.

I felt liberated, but only for a moment. I was at a portentous crossroad, having no idea what to do next. I had walked off the job without notice. There was no way they would keep me or hire me back. I was officially unemployed, with no money, no real home, and no plan. But I was finally free, it seemed. But freedom without hope is like living in a black hole.

I was tired of going to the cash advance store to get payday loans, parking all the way down the street and creeping in with a hood and sunglasses to hide my identity. I was tired of going to the gas station for daily five-dollar fills, which I probably wasted driving miles in search of a gas station displaying a price that was just a couple of cents cheaper per gallon. I was tired of sorting through the items I owned, conducting a cost-benefit analysis to see which I could do without and which would be most valuable at the local pawn shop. I was tired of cup noodles and beans-and-weenies and stretching one serving of Hamburger Helper to last three days. I was tired of being broke. I was tired of being needy. I was tired of the weight of simply being.

The full punch of what I had done didn’t hit me until I was parked in the driveway. When I got inside, the first thing I did was dump my blue coveralls in the trash can. I fixed a grilled cheese sandwich and sat in the dark, hypnotized by the shambles that was my life. I wanted to watch TV, but I couldn’t. I wanted to call somebody, but I couldn’t. I sat in the still house and descended into a depressive abyss, accepting that what everyone had said about me over the years was obviously and painfully true.

I heard the voice of my stepfather as he palmed my head and told me I was ugly, pressing my face against the mirror until I agreed. And his enraged voice when he beat me with any inanimate object within reach. I heard the screams of my sister as he smashed her bloodied face into the table, daring her to try to save me again.

I heard the voice of my mother, crying and asking where she went wrong as she cupped her hand full of Vaseline and polished the welts on my back.

I heard the voice of my father call me a thug, a reject, and a disgrace to his family before walking out of my life.

I heard the voice of my eighth-grade teacher call me a piece of shit as she kicked me out of class and slammed the door.

I heard the voices of administrators discussing my ten-page disciplinary record and devising a plan for my expulsion.

I heard the voices of coaches say, “He’s too short. He can’t play at the next level.” And I heard the voice of the coach when I’d made it to the next level as a collegiate athlete say, “He’s injured. We don’t need him.”

I heard my college advisor say it’s not too late to withdraw.

I heard my mom say I couldn’t come back home.

I heard Rita say I threw away my golden ticket.

I heard the EXIT sign say I could just run and be free.

So I ran.

And when I made it to the medicine cabinet, I reached for the pills that promised relief. The ones I remembered hearing were meant for numbing pain and sleeping with peace. I needed both. So I took one, then two, but the pain was still there.

I saw the EXIT sign again. And I just wanted to ride the rays of that emancipating glow right through the doorway. I could feel the drugs coursing through my veins. My heart started pounding against the cage of my chest, telling me I was almost there. And I filled my mouth with another handful, desperate to make it to the other side.

I closed my eyes and lay back, embracing the peace I had only hoped to find.

I was ready to let go. I was ready to die. Ready, I was, to just be free.



When people imagine the devil, they picture him in different ways.

In Paradise Lost, Milton saw the devil as the most beautiful of the angels, until he wasn’t.

In his painting The Last Judgment, Fra Angelico saw the Renaissance version with horns, scales, cloven hooves, and an arrowhead tail.

Generations of cartoonists have drawn him as a puckish red figure perched on a person’s shoulder, with an angel standing on the other.

This is how some envision the devil.

But not me.

When I imagine the devil, I see a man that few people would recognize as Satan, the Prince of Darkness.

I see Lucas.

I watched him creep into our home at night—slippery, angry, high. We suspected it was the alcohol or cocaine that stained his eyes as red as blood.

But on Sundays, he preached. I watched him lead worship at church. Like heaven’s minister of music—Lucifer the archangel—he preached God’s word, played the guitar’s melodic strings, and aroused the parishioners until they quickened and quivered in a Baptist convulsion.

After church, I watched him disappear into the night. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with my baby brother. And it was Ben’s recollections—confided many years later—that filled in the details about my stepfather’s whereabouts. How he had sex with prostitutes in the back seat of our minivan as his toddler son sat silently in the passenger seat, forever marked by what he watched in the rearview mirror.

My mother had no idea that she funded these exploits. Or maybe she did. But there was nothing she could do. When duty called, Mom had to answer. Roughly every month, the army sent her on temporary duty assignments that lasted for weeks at a time. This was when we were left in Lucas’s care, or rather at his mercy. He owned us. And we wore his wrath like metal collars clinched around our necks.

We gathered at the front door to say goodbye. It was our custom. Mom kneeled and wrapped her entire wingspan around her children, hugging our necks and planting kisses on the crown of our heads. Sierra and I cried—partly because we’d miss her, and partly because we knew what would happen when that door closed behind her. With short breaths and hearts filled with fear, we waited. Counting the seconds until our safety ended. Clinging to those final moments before the dark clouds opened and brimstone rained down. Searching for a reason that would make her stay. Hoping she could see the infrared signal of distress radiating from our eyes.

She saw it.

She always saw it.

But it did not matter.

Because she still had to go.

“I left money on the counter,” she said. “This is for food and food only. You hear me?” She gripped my cheeks and lifted my chin to make sure that I paid heed.

We didn’t have time to go grocery shopping before she left. On the table was enough money for two weeks’ worth of pizza, Chinese, and our standard Sunday dinner at Western Sizzlin.

She rose to her feet, our four tiny bodies entwining her legs and arms and waist. “You’re in charge,” she said to Sierra. She hugged us one last time. It was long and tight and full of remorse. She looked him in the face with tearful eyes. She did not say a word to admonish him or plead, though her fraught expression said it all. She tilted back her head and looked upward, as if petitioning God and fighting back her own tears. She made no sound. She said no words. But her lips trembled as she silently mouthed something that looked like “Please” and turned away as if she could look no more.

“Shut that noise up!” he yelled after the door closed behind her. We stood still, frozen by his rolling rage. He hated when we cried, especially for her. Affection didn’t live here. He barely even seemed to like my mother. I never saw him hug her or kiss her. Not a word of affirmation. He only used his words to malign her as a mother and to defame her as a wife. He called her stupid and dumb. “She don’t know nothing,” he always said. Everything that went wrong, he attributed to her lack of knowledge and overall unfitness. He shamed her. And we listened, because there was nothing else we could do.

“If your mother wasn’t so dumb…,” he said when it pained her to punish us. Like the time we were caught accepting candy from a stranger at the grocery store. Going to the grocery store was like a trip to the amusement park for us. Sierra fastened Ben in a cart and pushed him down one aisle, while Barry and I were in another lane cruising on carts like scooters. “Faster, Barry! Faster!” I begged. Barry was at the back, kicking and steering, while I rode on the front of the buggy, smiling from ear to ear and yelling, “Woohoo!” as we darted down the aisle. Customers gaped and snatched their children from our path. But we didn’t care, we were having the time of our lives—until Mom seized us by the ear and dragged us away. The fun was over.

All four of us followed Mom through the exit, trailing like a line of pups. She always made us boys dress identically from head to toe: same gold cross necklace, same matching outfit and shoes, same haircut.

An older white man approached us on our way out. He complimented us on our outfits and kneeled to offer us lollipops. Our faces lit with excitement as we reached for the candy. Mom was heading for the car when, suddenly, she glanced behind her and saw that we were missing. In a panic, she rushed back into the store, snatched the candy from our hands, and roared, “Get away from my children!” Then she whisked us away, dragging us on her heels like tin cans on the back of a wedding car. She slammed to a stop when we got outside, like she couldn’t wait another second to explode. She popped us in the head and wagged her finger in our faces. “What I tell y’all about talking to strangers?” These situations were difficult. We never knew when she actually wanted an answer. Sometimes, we’d start responding to her question and she’d yell, “Shut up!” When in doubt, we looked at Sierra to follow her lead. Our sister was muted by fear. “Wait till we get home,” Mom hissed, “I’ma tear y’all behind up.”

No one spoke during the ride home. Ben wasn’t old enough to get full-fledged whoopings. But the three of us were as silent as prisoners passing death row cells on their way to the chamber. I admired Sierra, because she knew how to maintain a look that said she didn’t care, she was untouchable. I’d try to harden my face to look like hers, but an expression of dread overtook my features when I thought about the last whooping we got. Mom always gathered us in one room. We stood in a line as she spanked us one by one. There are different types of whooping-getters, and we each had our own style. There are stoics—the ones who stare straight and stone-faced like a protester who refuses to budge: that was Sierra. There are runners—the ones who make Mom run laps around the room, chasing and swinging and missing: that was Barry. Then there are thespians—the ones who dramatically cry and fall out before Mom even takes the first swing: that was me. And Mom would leave the room, but not before yelling, “Stop crying before I give you something to cry about,” as if she hadn’t already fulfilled that promise.

These scenes played through my mind on our ride home. Suddenly, Mom’s tension started to wane as she cruised to her gospel music, crooning ballads that conjured up the Holy Spirit. She occasionally lifted one hand, the other still clutching the wheel, and gently cried, “Thank you, Jesus.” I knew that she was spiritually stirred and her heart was softening when she passed frequent glances in the rearview mirror. She was checking to see if we were okay, showing remorse that she might have overreacted. To Hezekiah Walker and Helen Baylor, I am indebted—for they often saved our asses, quite literally.

The car slowed to an unexpected stop. By this time, we had all fallen asleep. “Wake up, y’all,” she said. My heartbeat instantly accelerated because my first thought was that we had reached the end of death row. I just wanted to get it over with. The wait was the most painful. We stretched and yawned and wiped our eyes and realized that we were not home.

“Reach back there and grab the bread,” Mom directed. I was in the back row of our seven-passenger minivan so I strained and contorted to reach into the storage area. I dug through the heap of grocery bags to unearth a loaf of bread. “Hurry up before I change my mind,” Mom added, as if there was a time limit on her kindness. I retrieved the loaf and she told us to get out of the car.

At our feet was a picturesque lake with dozens of ducklings nibbling at the shoreline. The air was clear and the sun’s rays were gentle. The water was still. And I’ll never forget the sounds, as if Mother Nature welcomed us with song. The ducks quacked and the birds chirped and the wind whistled gently in the willows, which swayed like they were dancing.


  • Miseducated is a stunningly crafted book exploring the radical possibilities of what happens when a Black child who ‘hates’ school finds the language, tones, and practice to contextualize and precisely state why he rightfully resents the parts of American formal education system that hated him. In that way, the book is not so much about a prelapsarian kind of renewal, but a full hearted conjuring of an equitable future. I learned how to learn and how to teach again in Miseducated. This is breathtaking art and heart work.”—Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy: An American Memoir
  • "Miseducated touched my soul. From the very first sentence to the last, I was riveted. Only one other book has affected my soul so profoundly. It was my great-great grandfather’s Narrative – and, fatefully, the book that happened to change Brandon’s life."

    Nettie Washington Douglass, great-great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass, great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, Cofounder & Chairwoman of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
  • "Though we frequently hear about the disproportionate numbers of Black boys and men who struggle in school and experience incarceration, narratives that provide perspective-shifting insight into the beautiful humanity of these boys and men are few and far between. It is impossible to read this book and not come away with a combination of fury over the oppressive systems that miseducate, and faith in the power and resilience of the human spirit to overcome. Miseducated is vital reading as we fight our way to a more equitable world."—Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin
  • "Despite seemingly insurmountable barriers standing in his way, Brandon P. Fleming reinvented himself in similar ways as the Black scholars who shaped him. Frederick Douglass, beginning his quest for literacy, 'set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble,' and Fleming, consciously continuing Douglass’s tradition in Black autobiography, likewise set out to learn and eventually teach and inspire a new generation of black thinkers. Inspiring, heartbreaking and gripping, Miseducated is pure motivation."

    Tripp Rebrovick, PhD, Director of Debate, Harvard University
  • "Miseducated breaks your heart and then heals your soul with the love and agency of an educator who never stopped believing in himself. This is a beautifully written, deeply moving portrait of a vulnerable and tender Black man who uses his sheer strength and stamina to not only save his own life, but also the lives of his students living in a country that has put a target on their bodies, minds, and souls. Brandon P. Fleming dares us to see him and his students as anything other than human. This is what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter."—Candacy Taylor, award-winning author of the bestselling book, Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America
  • "Spellbinding storytelling...With immediacy and stylistic flair, Fleming powerfully narrates his difficult childhood with an absent mother and a violent stepfather; his total-immersion course in street life and failure in school; a chance at a Division I basketball career that he would have destroyed himself if injury had not beat him there; a dramatic incident of lust, infidelity, and an attempt at murderous revenge that occurred when the author was only 14; and his interest in—and great talent for—debate, which turned out to be one of the most transformative elements of his life....Informed by the autobiographies of Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass, the books that finally overcame his resistance to reading, Fleming adds a compelling chapter to the body of literature that inspired him. An inspiring page-turner for all readers, especially those seeking to overcome significant obstacles to find success."—Kirkus Reviews
  • “Fleming gives us an intimate look at his transformation from a troubled youth to an esteemed scholar and educator in this intimate memoir….The author is candid about the pain he experienced….His recollections of debate tournaments are a highlight of the memoir, showing the moments in which he discovered the power of his voice and connecting with others….[A] story about triumph of the will. Fleming conveys his passion for learning and teaching, in writing that is by turns entertaining and moving. This is a must-read for educators, as a professional development tool and to consider for high school curricula.”—Library Journal
  • "[A] bracingly frank [memoir] about his phoenix-like rise from a violent, abusive home on the margins and his wayward stint on the streets as a drug dealer[,] with... gritty details and feel-good ending."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • "[A] fascinating and inspiring memoir."—Arab News

On Sale
Jun 15, 2021
Page Count
272 pages
Hachette Books

Brandon P. Fleming

About the Author

Brandon P. Fleming is the assistant coach of debate at Harvard University and founder of the nationally acclaimed Harvard Diversity Project. In 2020, Fleming was recognized by Forbes magazine on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.  Fleming was also recognized by The Root magazine as one of The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2020.

Learn more about this author