Coates talks race and reparations during U-M's 2015 MLK Symposium

January 22, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates had one simple goal for his recent talk at U-M. “I hope to provoke people; I hope to give them what they brought me here to do,” he told Allana Akhtar of The Michigan Daily. “I hope to leave people talking.”

Mission accomplished.

Coates captivated a packed Rackham Auditorium during his hour-long Motorola Lecture titled, “A Deeper Black: Race in America,” in which he focused on the past, present, and future of “anti-Black racism in America.” The January 21 lecture was part of the University of Michigan’s 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, which is in its 29th year.

Coates, a senior editor and writer at The Atlantic, made waves with his June 2014 article, “The Case for Reparations,” a groundbreaking piece in which he delves into the racial inequities that have historically overwhelmed African-Americans in the United States. Coates’ talk at U-M remained true to the themes explored in his article.

“Ultimately, the case for reparations boils down to a very simple concept,” Coates argued in The Atlantic. “If we know that the African-American community in this country for the lion’s share of its history has been subject to plunder at every level of our society, then perhaps some small amount, some significant amount of what was taken from you should be given back.”

Nearly 1,100 attended the Motorola Lecture, which was sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women & Gender, the Department for Afroamerican and African Studies, the Ford School of Public Policy, and the Center for the Education of Women