November 3, 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses racism, writing

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Ta-Nehisi Coates was trying to explain how different audiences approach his writing, and what they seek in his detailed portrayals of the warping power of racism throughout American history.  

“What they want is the truth,” Coates said finally. “On some level, that’s all they want. We don’t want to be lied to. We can read and not agree with someone, but we don’t want to be lied to.” 

Ta-Nehisi Coates signs books for audience members.

Coates, a writer for The Atlantic whose most recent book is We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, was at Penn November 1 for the Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies, for which Penn GSE was a co-sponsor. 

During a conversation with professor Camille Charles, Coates discussed his career, his writing process, the Trump administration, the reporting that led to breakthrough pieces on discrimination, and why Americans need a better understanding of their own history, especially the Civil War.