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Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates to join Howard University as writer-in-residence

Howard University announced Tuesday that award-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in West Baltimore, will join the faculty in the fall as the Sterling Brown Chair in the Department of English.

This appointment will be made alongside that of Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. She will join the Cathy Hughes School of Communications as the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

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Both appointments were made through a $20 million donation by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Coates’ writing largely examines race relations and American power structures, much of which is inspired by his life in Baltimore. Raised by a Vietnam War veteran and former Black Panther, he developed a fascination with the relationship between violence and community in the city.

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He won the National Book Award in 2015 for “Between the World and Me.”

“Our investment in Howard will not only endow an academic Knight chair, but also boost journalism education at other Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said the Knight Foundation in a statement.

Howard University’s president, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, said in a statement: “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress,” he said. “Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent.”

Hannah-Jones will join Howard after declining an offer of tenure from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Without explanation, UNC’s board of trustees didn’t act for months on recommendations from faculty and administrators to hire her with tenure. That resulted in protests from UNC students and professors.

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Of Howard University, Hannah-Jones said in a written statement: “It is my great honor to help usher to this storied institution these significant resources that will help support the illustrious, hardworking, and innovative faculty at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws.”

Coates attended Howard University starting in 1993. While he did not complete his education there, he credited the institution with “training him intellectually” when he spoke at its charter day in 2016. In addition to becoming writer-in-residence, Coates plans to teach a creative writing class and finish his bachelor’s degree.

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