Water Dancer (Coates) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—September 30, 1975
Where—Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Education—Howard University (no degree)
Awards—National Book Award, George Polk Award, Hillman Prize (Journalism)
Currently—lives in New York, New York

Ta-Nehisi Coates (TAH-nə-HAH-see KOHTS) is an American writer, journalist, and educator. Coates is a National Correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly as regards African-Americans. In 2015, he won the National Book Award for Between the World and Me.

Coates has worked for the Village Voice, Washington City Paper, and Time. He has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Washington Monthly, O, and other publications. In 2008 he published his memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His second book, Between the World and Me, was published in 2015 to wide acclaim.

Early life
Coates was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to father, William Paul "Paul" Coates, a Vietnam War veteran, former Black Panther, publisher and librarian, and mother, Cheryl Waters-Hassan, who was a teacher. Coates' father founded and ran Black Classic Press, a publisher specializing in African-American titles, as a grassroots organization with a printing press in the basement of their home.

Coates grew up in the Mondawmin neighborhood of Baltimore during the crack epidemic. His father had seven children—five boys and two girls, by four women (his first wife had three children, Coates' mother had two boys, and the other two women each had one child). In Coates' family the important focus was on child-rearing. The children were raised together in a close-knit family; most lived with their mothers and often visited their father. Coates, however, said he lived with his father full-time. As a Black Panther, Coates' father adhered to the Black Panther doctrine of free love rather than monogamy.

As a child Coates, enjoyed comic books and Dungeons & Dragons. His interest in books was instilled at an early age when his mother punished bad behavior by making him write essays. Another big influence was his father's work with the Black Classic Press; Coates said he read many of the books his father published.

Coates attended a number of Baltimore-area schools, including William H. Lemmel Middle School (where some scenes for The Wire TV series were shot), Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, before graduating from Woodlawn High School. His father was hired as a librarian at Howard University, which enabled some of his children to attend with tuition remission.

After high school, he attended Howard University and left without a degree after five years to start a career in journalism. He is the only child in his family without a college degree. In summer 2014, Coates attended an intensive program in French at Middlebury College to prepare for a writing fellowship in Paris.

Coates' first journalism job was as a reporter at the the Washington City Paper; his editor was David Carr, who later wrote for the New York Times.

From 2000 to 2007, Coates worked as a journalist at various publications, including Philadelphia Weekly, Village Voice and Time. His first article for The Atlantic, "This Is How We Lost to the White Man," about Bill Cosby and conservatism, started a new, more successful phase of his career. The article led to an appointment with a regular blog column for The Atlantic, a blog that was both popular, influential and had a high level of community engagement.

Coates became a senior editor at The Atlantic, for which he wrote feature articles as well as maintained a blog. Topics covered by the blog included politics, history, race, culture as well as sports, and music.

His writings on race, such as his September 2012 Atlantic cover piece "Fear of a Black President," and his June 2014 feature "The Case for Reparations," received special praise and won his blog a place on the Best Blogs of 2011 list by Time magazine, as well as the 2012 Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism. The blog's comment section has also received praise for its high level of engagement; Coates curates and moderates the comments heavily so that, "the jerks are invited to leave [and] the grown-ups to stay and chime in."

In discussing his Atlantic article on "The Case for Reparations," Coates said he had worked on the article for almost two years, reading Rutgers University professor Beryl Satter's book, Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America,. Satter's book is a history of redlining, which discussed the grassroots organization, the Contract Buyers League, of which Clyde Ross was one of the leaders. The focus of the article was more on the institutional racism of housing discrimination than on reparations for slavery.

Coates has worked as a guest columnist for the New York Times. He turned down an offer from them to become a regular columnist.

In 2008, Coates published The Beautiful Struggle, a memoir about coming of age in West Baltimore and its effect on him. In the book, he discusses the influence of his father, a former Black Panther; the prevailing street crime of the era and its effects on his older brother; his own troubled experience attending Baltimore-area schools; and his eventual graduation and enrollment in Howard University.

Coates' second book, Between the World and Me, was published in July 2015. Coates said that one of the origins of the book came from the murder of a college friend Prince Carmen Jones Jr. who was killed by police in a case of mistaken identity. In an ongoing discussion about reparation, continuing the work of his June 2014 Atlantic article, Coates cited the bill sponsored by Representative John Conyers "H.R.40 - Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act" that has been introduced every year since 1989. One of the themes of the book was about what physically affected African-American lives, their bodies being enslaved, violence, that come from slavery and various forms of institutional racism.

Coates was the 2012–14 MLK visiting professor for writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the City University of New York as its journalist-in-residence in the fall of 2014.

Personal life
Coates currently resides in Harlem with his wife, Kenyatta Matthews, and son, Samori Maceo-Paul Coates. His son is named after Samori Ture, a Mande chief who fought French colonialism, after black Cuban revolutionary Antonio Maceo Grajales, and after Coates' father. Coates met his wife when they were both students at Howard University. He is an atheist and a feminist.

Coates says that his first name, Ta-Nehisi, is an Egyptian name his father gave him that means Nubia, and in a loose translation is "land of the black." Nubia is a region along the Nile river located in current day northern Sudan and southern Egypt. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/27/2015.)

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