How Obama owned his blackness in white America

In this extract from We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on how Obama rewrote the narrative around blackness and success, and set the stage for black writers to rise to prominence

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Obama

Obama found a means of communicating his affec­tion for white America without fawning over it

My contention is that Barack Obama is directly responsible for the rise of a crop of black writers and journalists who achieved prominence during his two terms. These writers were talented —  but talent is nothing without a field on which to display its gifts. Obama’s presence opened a new field for writers, and what began as curiosity about the man himself eventually expanded into curiosity about the community he had so consciously made his home and all the old, fitfully slumbering questions he’d awakened about Ameri­can identity. I was one of those writers. And though I could not see it then, making that doleful trek home from the unemployment office, back from the classroom, back across 125th Street, the wind was waking all around me.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more