Ta-Nehisi Coates

Racism doesn't just endanger black people. When it endangers one of us, it endangers all of us.

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Between the World and Me

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Ta-Nehisi Coates | #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of  Between the World and Me
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most original and perceptive black voices today—“the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (New York Observer). Coates is the author, most recently, of Between the World and Me, the #1 New York Times bestseller that “will be hailed as a classic of our time” (Publishers Weekly) and which Toni Morrison calls “required reading.” 

Coates’s debut book, The Beautiful Struggle, is a tough and touching memoir of growing up in Baltimore during the age of crack. In 2012, Coates was awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism. Judge Hendrik Hertzberg, of The New Yorker, wrote, “Coates is one of the most elegant and sharp observers of race in America. He is an upholder of universal values, a brave and compassionate writer who challenges his readers to transcend narrow self-definitions and focus on shared humanity.”

A former Village Voice writer, Coates acted as the Journalist in Residence at the School of Journalism at CUNY. He was previously the Martin Luther King Visiting Associate Professor at MIT, and has been awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism. He is the winner of a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship. 


“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. This is required reading.”

— Toni Morrison

His book Between the World and Me is written in the form of a letter to his teenage son, Samori. In 160 pages, it moves from Baltimore to Howard University to New York City to Paris, France, addressing what it means to be black in America. Slate calls it, “a book destined to remain on store shelves, bedside tables, and high school and college syllabi long after its author or any of us have left this Earth.”

An Atlantic National Correspondent, Coates has written many influential articles, including “My President Was Black,” a cover story that examined the legacy and impact of the first black presidency, and “The Case for Reparations,” which reignited the long-dormant conversation of how to repay African-Americans for a system of institutional racism that’s robbed them of wealth and success for generations. New York called the George Polk Award-winning cover story “probably the most discussed magazine piece of the Obama era.” Coates is also writer for the hit new Marvel Comics series Black Panther, drawn by Brian Stelfreeze. 



“Ta-Nehisi was a stunning success as our opening keynote speaker. I think he really helped pump up our partners in the child welfare advocacy and policy community, reminding them of what our mission is all about: fairness and justice for all young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood.”

Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative

Speech Topics

Diversity & Race
A Deeper Black Race in America
Ta-Nehisi Coates does not tend to pre-write his keynotes. He talks extemporaneously, forcefully, on the events of the day—sometimes, that literal day—and incorporates themes from his writing. Lately, his focus is on the systemic racism that is inseparable from the growth of the nation: the racist policies that have plundered black bodies, black property, and black lives for economic and social gain. How can we reconcile these acts, many of them ongoing, with the supposedly postracial country some claim we are moving towards? Other related topics include the distressing series of murders of unarmed black people that has rocked the country and dominated headlines. What does it mean to occupy a black body in America? What rules and fears and hopes govern behavior? Coates does not offer a casual “snapshot,” does not provide easy answers, and does not dole out false hope. He engages audiences in a meaningful, historically grounded, up-to-the-minute discussion on what it means to talk—really talk—about race today.