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Coates event brings thousands to campus

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April 05, 2017
Ta-Nehisi Coates

As might be expected from author Ta-Nehisi Coates, race relations were front and center at his talk Tuesday night.

More than 3,500 people gathered at Calihan Hall on Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus to hear the National Book Award-winning author of “Between the World and Me” share his thoughts about the history, and future, of race relations in the United States.

“Slavery,” Coates said, adding that he’s said this before and will continue to say it, “was not a bump on the road in American history. Slavery was the road.”

Coates is a journalist who came to know University of Detroit Mercy through professor of History Roy Finkenbine. It is this relationship that paved the way for Tuesday’s event. Coates, in researching an article about reparations for slavery, reached out to Finkenbine, whose research on the issue was instrumental to the final piece. “The Case For Reparations” ran on the cover of The Atlantic in 2014 and made waves across the world.

“That article altered the trajectory of my career in a way I could not anticipate,” Coates said Tuesday night to a crowd of students, alumni, faculty and staff and community members.

In 2015, Coates published “Between the World and Me,” a reflection on the African-American experience in the form of a letter to his son. It won the National Book Award for Nonfiction that year. Coates’ writing earned him a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” and in 2016 he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He is also a writer for Marvel’s Black Panther comic book series.

See the video for more of Coates’ thought-provoking insights

— By Ron Bernas
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