Biography of Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is best known for his writing in The Atlantic and the letter to his son that became the book Between the World and Me (2015).

Coates was born in Baltimore in 1975; he has said his name is Egyptian and loosely refers to Nubia. His father Paul was a Vietnam veteran and a member of the Black Panther Party. He was a self-taught historian and voracious reader, two qualities he passed on to his son. Coates’s mother Cheryl was a schoolteacher. He attended high school in Baltimore and then matriculated at Howard University in 1993, where he spent five years before leaving to start a career in journalism in New York. Over the years, he spent time working at The Washington City Paper, Village Voice, and Time before being hired by the Atlantic, where he wrote his most famous essay, “The Case for Reparations,” in June 2014. Soon after writing that essay, Coates spent time at Middlebury to prepare for his fellowship at the American Library in Paris. Coates left his position with the Atlantic in July 2018 after a decade spent with the journal.

Coates says he first considered hip-hop as his way out of Baltimore, but that he turned to journalism after realizing he was not particularly good at writing lyrics. At Howard and beyond, Coates has engaged with the work of black writers and intellectuals, particularly Malcolm X, whom he considers his most significant influence

Coates is also the author of multiple books: 2008’s The Beautiful Struggle, which was a memoir, Between the World and Me, a continuation of the reparations conversation started in his Atlantic article and nominated for the National Book Award, and his most recent work, We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of essays written about the Obama era that draws parallels between that time and the Reconstruction Era, which won the National Book Award. In addition, Coates is the current author of the Black Panther comic books. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, the Hillman Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, among other accolades.

From 2012-2014 he was the MLK Visiting Professor at MIT, and was a journalist-in-residence at the City University of New York in 2014. He is married to Kenyatta Matthews and has one son, Samori.


Study Guides on Works by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American author born on September 30, 1975 in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from Woodlawn High School, he attended Howard University, but dropped out in order to pursue a career in journalism. Coates worked at...

Does the world really need another super hero? The answer, of course, is yes, especially when it's Coates' Black Panther. Coates is a critically acclaimed author and the creator of "Between The World And Me" so when Marvel Comics announced that he...

At the time of writing (7/10/2019), The Water Dancer has not yet been released to the public. It will, however, be published on September 24th, 2019 by One World Books. Described as an "African American History" book by Amazon, The Water Dancer ...