Campus Life

Ta-Nehisi Coates visiting scholar series

For The Argo by Emma Desideiro

Ta-Nehisi Coates, prolific author, journalist and scholar, gave Stockton students a deeper look into his award winning work during a seminar on Tuesday, which was part of the Dean and Zoë Pappas Visiting Scholar Series. 

The event took place via Zoom and was primarily led by Professor Donnetrice Allison, who relayed questions, some of which were asked by students. 

Coates is the author of several bestselling books, including The Water Dancer and Between the World and Me, which was selected as the shared reading for first-year students this year. Coates was also a national correspondent for The Atlantic. Between the World and Me has been adapted for both theater and film. Coates has additionally worked with Marvel as an author for the Captain America and Black Panther comics. 

Coates explained the importance of his upbringing which led to him becoming an author. “The minute I became a reader, I was a writer,” he said. Coates said that he was brought up in a house full of books, “predominantly by and about Black people,” but that he was lucky enough to be exposed to a plethora of ideas through reading, none of which were ever off-limits to him. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates.

“Reading, and books, were an open world for me to explore,” Coates said. He recalled when he realized he wanted to be a writer: “You can be an explorer through the media of books, and then you realize someone creates those things too, and then you realize perhaps you can even be the creator of those worlds people explore.” 

Coates also discussed the importance of education in all aspects of life. “It’s important to be educated on all ideas, even the ones with which you vehemently disagree,” he said. 

When asked about banning books in schools, Coates was a strong advocate for exposing children to all literature and not restricting certain ideas because they are wrong. Coates said that teachers should be equipped with the ability to determine what is appropriate for their students. 

“I would not be the writer I am today if someone told me I cannot read the things I oppose. I wouldn’t know if I sincerely opposed it because I wouldn’t know what it said,” Coates said. 

One student asked Coates whether his feelings about the topics in the book had changed at all, six years later. “It definitely would be a different book if I wrote it now,” he said. 

“The book is where I was at the time…the work is what it is,” he emphasized.

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