Washington, D.C. (September 29, 2015)—Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of the current bestseller Between the World and Me, has been awarded a prestigious “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation. Coates is the only journalist among this year’s class of 24 MacArthur Fellows. In a statement released this morning, the MacArthur Foundation praised Coates as a “highly-distinctive voice” who is “emerging as a leading interpreter of American concerns to a new generation of media-savvy audiences and having a profound impact on the discussion of race and racism in this country.”
The statement also notes that Coates “brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.”
“I’m delighted that the MacArthur Foundation has reached the same conclusion about Ta-Nehisi Coates that his colleagues and readers at The Atlantic have held for many years,” said James Bennet, The Atlantic’s co-president and editor in chief. “His genius is a rare combination of brilliance and singular vision joined to fearless intellectual honesty and boundless curiosity about what the rest of the world thinks, and why.”
Coates is the author of The Atlantic’s current cover story, “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” which takes an unflinching look at how the deep reach of America’s criminal-justice system has affected black families. Focusing on Detroit and Baltimore, Coates traces the historical roots of the policies—chief among them the 1965 Moynihan Report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”—that have led to America’s carceral state and urges policymakers to change a damaging system. It is The Atlantic’s longest article in more than a decade. “The Age of Mass Incarceration” hub at TheAtlantic.com has annotated versions of both Coates’s cover story and the Moynihan Report; three accompanying videos produced by The Atlantic; and more than two dozen responses to, debates about, and articles relating to this story.
Coates’s June 2014 Atlantic cover story, “The Case for Reparations,” landed with great moral force and sparked national dialogue. Built on two years of reporting in Chicago and Coates’s extensive reading in the academic literature on race relations in America, the essay argues that America has never properly reckoned with the corrosive effects of centuries of racist policy, and that the best way to achieve such a reckoning is by wrestling directly with the idea of reparations—paying recompense to African Americans for 400 years of institutionalized white supremacy. His previous feature for the magazine, “Fear of a Black President,” won a National Magazine Award in 2013.