Ta-Nehisi Coates

Credit: MacArthur Foundation at https://www.macfound.org/fellows/931/

Ta-Nehisi Coates, born in 1975, is a writer and journalist, who brings to his writing literary skill, personal reflection, and historical scholarship.  He is regarded as having a wide and deep impact on discussions of race and racism in the United States.

Coates grew up in Baltimore. In 2008 he published a memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. This debut book looks back at his growing up in Baltimore as the son of a former Black Panther during the age of crack. He attended Howard University, but left to pursue his journalistic and literary interests.

Coates is a senior correspondent for The Atlantic, where his important article, “The Case for Reparations,” appeared in 2014. “The Case for Reparations” reignited the conversation about whether and how to repay African-Americans for a system of institutional racism (including slavery and post-slavery policies) that robbed them of wealth and well-being for generations. In October 2015 his piece, "The African-American Family in the Age of Incarceration,” appeared in The Atlantic. Coates has worked for The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, and Time. He has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Monthly, O, and other publications.

On the publication of Between the World and Me, Toni Morrison, novelist, editor, emeritus professor of literature at Princeton University, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, wrote:  “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’ journey, is visceral, eloquent and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory.” The book has won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction (2015) and has attracted a wide readership and extensive analysis and praise.  Taking its title from a poem about a lynching by Richard Wright, it takes the form of a letter to his 14-year old son, Samori, a form that in some ways resembles James Baldwin’s shorter “Letter to My Nephew.”

Coates is currently working on several projects. An avid reader of comics as a child, he is writing the new comic book series about the Black Panther for Marvel Comics. Issue #1 went on sale April 6th, 2016 and sold an estimated 253,259 physical copies. He is involved in a television project on the Martin Luther King years. He is also at work on a novel. He won a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”) in 2015.