Ta-Nehisi Coates to visit University of Detroit Mercy

a-Nehisi Coates is America’s foremost critical thinker, black or otherwise. And he’s also a writer. And an author. And a comic book writer. And he’s really busy.

But Coates is booked for an April 4 talk at the University of Detroit Mercy, a coup for the college that had been trying to land him for a while. It’s Coates’ first visit to Detroit since becoming the Ta-Nehisi Coates: the Coates who authored Between the World and Me, the Coates who won the MacArthur Genius Grant, the Coates who made a case for reparations in the pages of The Atlantic – where the bulk of his writing appears.

“I describe him as the 21st century James Baldwin,” says Roy Finkenbine, a UDM professor of black history. Coates’ analyses of race have pushed perceptions of black Americans to the forefront in recent years; Between the World and Me earned a rare co-sign from Toni Morrison. “People who haven’t experienced some of the things they’ve experienced that (Coates) has, it will begin to get them to rethink what they take for granted in their daily lives.”

Coates’ talk in Detroit comes at a time when race relations are frequently under the microscope, whether we’re talking about changing demographics in the city proper to suburban relations across Eight Mile. “We’re kind of a canary in the coal mine as far as problems with race in America goes,” Finkenbine says.

Coates will speak to a public crowd at UDM’s Calihan Hall but also speak privately to a class of students while he’s here. Though everyone should heed Coates’ words, it’s critical that his messages ring in younger ears, Finkenbine says.


“Part of the problem with millennials is that the majority of them are extremely tolerant, but because of their relative youth, they sometimes don’t understand just how this problem still is in the broader society and how it affects people on both sides of the racial divide,” he says.

The presentation will take place 6:30-7:35 p.m. April 4, Calihan Hall, University of Detroit Mercy. Admission is $10 and RSVP is required.

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