Ta Nehisi Coates Speaks: Essays on the Existence and Denial of Racism and White Supremacy in America - 7 weeks
S 2020


A pre-eminent black public intellectual of his generation, Ta-Nehisi Coates testified before Congress in June, 2019 on the case for Reparations for blacks of ex-slaves in the United States. It was the first such hearing on the subject in over 20years.

During the Obama administration, Coates wrote a series of articles for The Atlantic, examining the issues and events of the period from his own intimate and revealing perspective of the haunting shadow of our nation's persistent and unreconciled racial history. 

This 7 week SDG will explore Coates' examination of the Obama years based on his own experiences, observations and his intellectual development as a black man in 21st century America. We Were Eight Years in Power , includes his  essays for The Atlantic, each introduced with a personal story (mini-essays) which elucidate his thinking, his confusions and his pessimism (lately turned to guarded optimism in wake of the democratic responses to Trumpism). His themes are about man, community and national identity and his view that black progress is always met with violence and backlash; that most white Americans still cannot tolerate the idea of equity and that acknowledging the many legacies of slavery is too much to ask of Whites because it would disrupt our conception of our country and ourselves. The book's essays provoke and invite argument and discussion as to what Coates has to say and to offer for the future in a black/white divided America.

Weekly Topics

  1. Introduction; Notes and Essay from the First Year, "This Is How We Lost To The White Man"
  2. Notes and Essay from the Second Year, "American Girl"
  3. Notes and Essay from the Third Year, "Why Do So Few Blacks Study The Civil War"; Notes and Essay from the Fourth Year, "The Legacy Of Malcom X"
  4. Notes and Essay from the Fifth Year, "Fear Of A Black President"
  5. Notes and Essay from the Sixth Year, "The Case For Reparations"
  6. Notes and Essay from the Seventh Year, "The Black Family In the Age Of Mass Incarceration
  7. Notes and Essay from the Eighth Year, "My President Was Black"; Epilogue and Conclusions


Core Book:  We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2017

Other Supplemental Readings:

  • Between The World And Me, Ta Nehisi Coates, 2014 (autobiographical Memoir)
  • The Beautiful Struggle, 2008 ( Childhood in Baltimore and its Impact on the author)
  • You Tube--Democracy Now! June 20, 2019,  PBS NewsHour, June 19, 2019
  • www.the guardian.com>jun ."Ta-Nehisi Coates revisits the case for reparations five years after essay first published",
  • July 6, 2019