We Were Eight Years in Power
Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Nina Calhoun

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Ta-Nehisi Coates
Year Published
About the Title

In a series of seven, historically valuable essays discussing a range of issues such as the beginnings of slavery, the Civil War, the disproportionate incarceration rates of blacks, the impact of such incarceration on families, and the inadequate education or funding for black communities, Ta-Nehisi Coates crafts a tragic collection during the years of the Obama Administration. Coates’ collection of essays, bound together, is the resulting work “We Were Eight Years in Power.” A featured and frequent writer for The Atlantic and an outspoken critic for certain racial issues concerning African-American culture in the United States, Ta-Nehisi Coates often inserts or finds himself embroiled in the middle of many racially-charged controversies, such as Colin Kaepernick’s act of kneeling during the national anthem. More recently, these controversies, along with Cornel West’s (an American philosopher and alumnus of Harvard and Princeton) criticisms regarding Coates’ role in racial politics have caused his withdrawal from public spaces such as Twitter.

Meanwhile the title of the collection, “We Were Eight Years in Power” implies the period of social change during Obama-era administration in its most superficial sense. On a deeper level, the idea contained in this title has a dualistic quality in that it links Presidential power with a sort of cultural command or victory, while the past tense means that Coates no longer considers “us” - likely in reference to Black communities and other minority targets of discrimination - in power. Consequently, the reader would assume Coates means that either Trump’s presidency, a member of the minority population no longer as President, or a combination of both are the causes of this implied “loss” of power.

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