Our Man at Yale

By Ta-Nehisi Coates


I've been meaning to express precisely how much I enjoyed my visit to Yale last week. Like anybody else, I come to these things with my own sets biases. I try not to wear them, but I nevertheless, I hear them talking to me. I've said this before but the thing that holds us back more than anything is a lack of exposure. (By "us" I mean those of us who came in an environment where the ideas of the block were more necessary than the ideas of the world outside.) 


I didn't know anyone who went to an Ivy League school. I did not even understand it as a possibility for me. And I had more exposure to "the world outside" than virtually any of my friends. But still I mostly understood school as something that kept you from being shot or sent to jail. I only faintly occurred to me that I might "enjoy" it. I wasn't at Yale as a student, but interacting with the students and the faculty was really a highlight.

My presence on the panel above really belongs to the Horde. Whoever told me to read A Nation Under Our Feet can take a bow. Whoever first sent to David Blight's lectures on the Civil War can also take a bow. It was an honor and a privilege to sit up there and not simply hold forth but to listen. 

I want to thank all the good folks I saw up there. There were so many highlights. Meeting David Brion Davis and having him regale us with tales of his first encounters with black GIs in a segregated Army. Finding out Edmund Morgan is still alive and in New Haven. And there was more.

Writers, who aren't in the academy, spend so much time alone. If only for a moment, it was nice to come off the island.

It was a good day.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2012/04/our-man-at-yale/255447/