- Joshunda Sanders
was born in Baltimore, Maryland to W. Paul Coates, who worked as a publisher, and Cheryl Waters. Waters and the elder Coates divorced when Ta‐Nehisi was in his mid‐twenties. Paul Coates, a Vietnam veteran, had been a community organizer with the Black Panthers organization until he left the group in the 1970s to become a librarian and a bookseller.
Ta‐Nehisi—his name is the word ancient Egyptians used for the land of Nubia—was one of seven children his father had by four different women. Coates was raised in a row house with his brother, Menelik, who was named after the ancient Ethiopian ruler allegedly born to Solomon and Sheba. The boys were heavily influenced by their father's erudition, particularly in the area of black history. When they violated rules of the house and would be sent, as punishment, to read a book by Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.