“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”
But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.
We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
We Were Eight Years In Power:
An American Tragedy
In his book Ta-Nehisi Coates examines the cause and effect between the unprecedented election of Barack Obama as the first Black president, to the vicious backlash that fueled the election of Donald Trump, a man Coates calls America’s “first white president.”
An American Tragedy builds on Ta-Nehisi’s previously published work, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” and The Beautiful Struggle, and showcases the same riveting storytelling and laser-sharp honesty that distinguished Coates’ best-seller, Between the World and Me. WE
WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER contains eight essays which revisit each year of the Obama administration, tracking the impact of white supremacy on our community and the nation through the personal narrative of the national correspondent for The Atlantic and National Book Award-winning author. As Coates states, “The Confederacy is not dead, and African Americans are well aware that this history is still with us.”
Non-fiction. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. Hardcover 367 pages. 2017.
Time Periods: 2017, 21st Century
Reading Levels: Adult, High School
Ta Nehisi Coates “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” (Ta-Nehisi Coates talked with Kojo Nnamdi. )
Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Chris Jackson | One World Big Ideas Night
Filmed at the One World Big Ideas Night in New York City, 10/4/17.
- Democracy Now!
- AtlanticLIVE: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Live from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Michele Norris, founder of The Race Card Project, interviews Ta-Nehisi Coates, Author of We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.
“[Trump’s] ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power,” Coates writes in an essay for The Atlantic, adapted from his upcoming book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.
“Brilliant . . . [Coates] is firing on all cylinders.”— The Washington Post
“I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly, it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.— Toni Morrison
“A crucial book during this moment of generational awakening.”—The New Yorker
“Essential . . . Coates’s probing essays about race, politics, and history became necessary ballast for this nation’s gravity-defying moment.” —The Boston Globe
“Coates’s always sharp commentary is particularly insightful as each day brings a new upset to the cultural and political landscape laid during the term of the nation’s first black president. . . . Coates is a crucial voice in the public discussion of race and equality, and readers will be eager for his take on where we stand now and why.” —Booklist (starred review)