February 22, 2016


Future Black History Month: Ta-Nehisi Coates' Political Prowess

William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

This year, we're celebrating Black History Month in a big way. Each day we're spotlighting an artist, musician, writer and/or everyone in between—the folks who are changing history right before our eyes. Ta-Nehisi Coates is doing it perhaps in one of the most direct ways: Writing sociopolitical and economic injustices into digestible realities. The only way to glean understanding of the experiences of minorities is having them spell it out for you.

The majority of Coates' articles deal with the African-American experience. His career reached superstar levels with his 2008 article "This Is How We Lost to the White Man" in The Atlantic. It dealt with Bill Cosby and conservatism, how the comedian sought to inspire black individuals to "cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past." Coates outlined the ideals of black conservatism, the economic experiences it ignores and the complications within it. 

Then, of course, there are his other brilliant writings on race: 2012's "Fear of a Black President" and 2014's "The Case for Reparations," both of which ran in The Atlantic. Coates' ability and talent extends to books, too: Ta-Nehisi published a memoir in 2008, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood and his second book, Between the World and Me, won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. 

That's only one honor on his long list of incredible recognitions: In 2012 he won the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism; in 2013, the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism for "Fear of a Black President"; in 2014, the George Polk Award for Commentary for "The Case for Reparations"; in 2015, the American Library in Paris Visiting Fellowship. He also became a fellow for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, receiving a "genius grant."

It's beyond impressive stuff, and we get the sense Coates is just getting started.