Ta-Nehisi Coates to join conversation with UChicago students at May 20 event

Organization of Black Students to host Kent Lecture with renowned author, journalist

Renowned author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates will join a conversation with University of Chicago students as part of this year’s George E. Kent Lecture on May 20.

Hosted by the Organization of Black Students annually since 1984, the lecture series has featured leading Black scholars, writers and activists in commemoration of Kent—the late literature professor who was one of the first Black professors to earn tenure at UChicago. The series is now held in partnership with the Harris School of Public Policy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates

For this year’s session, undergraduate students Jackson Overton-Clark and Debbie Adewale, co-political chairs of OBS, will host a Q&A discussing topics ranging from Coates’ writing to contemporary political and cultural events. The public is welcome to register here for the free virtual event, which will begin at 6 p.m. CT.

After the event concludes, the video will be available until June 4 via a link provided to registrants who are current UChicago students, faculty or staff.

Coates is the author of the bestselling books The Beautiful StruggleWe Were Eight Years in PowerThe Water Dancer and Between the World and Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015.

“Throughout high school, I read Coates’ work, including ‘The Case for Reparations’ and Between the World and Me,” said Overton-Clark, a second-year in the College. “His writing was formative, especially coming from a primarily white institution where I was the only Black person in my class, and where I was sometimes attacked for sharing Coates’ ideas, even though they resonated with my experience. So, it feels full circle that I get to talk to him.”

In April 2018, Between the World and Me was adapted for the stage and premiered at the iconic Apollo Theater. In November 2020, it was adapted for film and aired on HBO, a project for which Coates was an executive producer. His novel The Water Dancer will be turned into a film adaptation—with Coates writing the screenplay—and will be produced by Plan B Entertainment, Harpo Productions and MGM Studios. He is also the author of the Marvel comic Captain America.

Coates is the recipient of a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship. He is currently in his fourth year as a distinguished writer in residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Previous Kent lecturers have included writer James Baldwin, scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., activist Angela Davis, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander, trans activist Janet Mock, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and poet Nikki Giovanni.