We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Contributed by Andrea Barraza
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Chapter 1

In the first chapter, Coates talks about a seminar that he attended in 2007 which entailed employment and job opportunities. He discusses the concept of failure in relation to a visit he had to the New York state office. In this visit, Coates was attending a seminar which had discussions focusing on work, responsibility, and the need to stay off the dole (Coates 1). At that time, he was living with his partner, Kenyatta, and son, Samori B; who both have names of African anti-colonialists. He points out that, by then, had been in a relationship with Kenyatta for the nine years but he had not yet managed to get a consistent income; in fact, he indicates that he had been jobless for the most of it. For these reasons, he was committed to ending the life of joblessness by finding a good job.

Coates also discusses how he visited the Harlem unemployment office during this particular when he first heard about Barack Obama’s presidential bid launching. He discusses how he was impressed with how Obama talked in Harlem. According to Coates, this was one of the rare occasions that he saw a black man talk in such an enthusiastic manner. He, also, tend to express a lot of admiration for Obama suggesting that he is directly behind the rise in the black journalists and writers that have been seen in the recent past.

The author also discusses the idea of black conservativism by Bill Cosby, an American musician, actor, stand-up comedian and author. Coates asserts that Cosby was keen to reach out to blacks to appease them to their white counterparts. According to the author, Cosby used to say “if you want to win, we can win” (Coates 5). This showed that there always existed a possibility of black people and white people interacting with one another and having the chance to solve the social issues that they face together. Through the interaction, black people would have the chance to prosper in just the same way their white counterparts are. In a society where both black people and white people both win, there is the possibility of both of them being more willing to accommodate each other, reducing instances of bigotry among them.


In this chapter, Coates highlights some of the changes that helped to boost the hopes of the black community in having a better recognition in the country. The major development is represented in the announcing of candidature by Barack Obama to run for the highest office in the US. It also introduces the concept of Pan-Africanism; especially as shown in the names given to Coates’ partner and son. It is the struggle that people both in the US and outside have had towards ensuring that black people are treated equally with other races. This is, particularly, evident as Bill Cosby states, “…we are not a pitiful race of people.” In this regard, the author demonstrates how a better social interracial relationship that could be achieved through the interaction between black people and white people (Coates 5).

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