MacArthur Fellows Program

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Journalist | Class of 2015

Interpreting complex and challenging issues around race and racism through the lens of personal experience and nuanced historical analysis.

The Atlantic
Washington, District of Columbia
39 at time of award

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist, blogger, and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.

In a series of blog posts about the Civil War and a long-form print essay on “The Case for Reparations” (2014), Coates grapples with the rationalizations for slavery and their persistence in twentieth-century policies like Jim Crow and redlining—the practice of denying loans and other financial services to African Americans. In “Reparations” Coates compellingly argues for remuneration for the economic impact on African Americans denied the ability to accumulate wealth or social status for generations. At once deeply felt and intensely researched, the essay prompted a national conversation.

Coates opens a window to the formation of his worldview in his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle (2008), a reflection on race, class, and masculinity told through the lens of growing up in Baltimore as the son of a former Black Panther. Coates describes the evolution of his views on constructions of race in Between the World and Me (2015). In this passionate and lyrical book-length essay addressed to his teenage son, he unflinchingly articulates the physical and mental experience of being a black man in America today. A highly distinctive voice, Coates is emerging as a leading interpreter of American concerns to a new generation of media-savvy audiences and having a profound impact on the discussion of race and racism in this country.

Ta-Nehisi Coates attended Howard University. His articles have appeared in local and national publications, including the Village Voice, the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, where he is currently a national correspondent. He was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012 and a journalist-in-residence at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in 2014.

News About This Fellow
September 12, 2018
"14 Questions with Ta-Nehisi Coates"
The Players' Tribune
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
July 5, 2018
"Captain America No. 1, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Annotated"
The New York Times
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
May 7, 2018
"I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye"
The Atlantic
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
March 30, 2018
"Bringing the World of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Briefly, to Stage"
The New York Times
Jason Moran, 2010 MacArthur Fellow
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
February 28, 2018
"Why I'm Writing Captain America"
The Atlantic
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
February 28, 2018
"Ta-Nehisi Coates Will Write the Captain America Comic"
The New York Times
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
January 11, 2018
"Deadspin Interview: Ta-Nehisi Coates"
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
January 4, 2018
"Ta-Nehisi Coates"
WTF Podcast
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

Photos for Download

High-resolution photos of MacArthur Fellows are available for download (right click and save), including use by media, in accordance with this copyright policy.

Please credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

More Fellows

View All 2015 Fellows

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.
Check out our social media content in one place, or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.