'Why Is This Time Different?': Ta-Nehisi Coates to Guest-Edit Vanity Fair's September Issue on Art, Activism and Power

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Photo: Zach Gibson (Getty Images)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the acclaimed author of the National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, is helping Vanity Fair interpret the world we unexpectedly find ourselves living in now. On Tuesday, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Radhika Jones announced that Coates is the guest editor of the September issue, “a special edition exploring art, activism, and power in 21st-century America,” according to a release provided to The Root.


“There’s no one better suited than Ta-Nehisi to illuminate this urgent moment in American history—to answer the question, ‘Why is this time different?’” said Jones in an online announcement, explaining that Coates, in collaboration with the magazine’s editorial and creative teams, had been given substantial control in producing the issue, “helping oversee almost every aspect of the magazine’s production, including story assigning and editing, writer and photographer selection, art direction, design, display, and multimedia projects.”

“We are honored to collaborate with him on this project, bringing together the writers, artists, and icons whose work pushes us toward a more just world,” Jones added.

Those contributors include a stunning and largely Black assemblage of fellow luminaries, including the following: Eve L. Ewing, Bomani Jones, Ava DuVernay, Josie Duffy Rice, Jesmyn Ward, Danez Smith, Deana Lawson, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Kiese Makeba Laymon, Jacqueline Woodson, Franklin Leonard, Kimberly Drew, Hank Willis Thomas, Diana Ejaita, Marjon Carlos, Zerina Akers, Ruth Ossai, Shawn Martinbrough, Ola Ebiti, Calida Rawles, Renell Medrano, Lynsey Weatherspoon, Jason Bolden, Dana Scruggs, Phylicia J. L. Munn, Levi Walton, Lawrence Agyei, Braylen Dion, Bruce Bennett, Paul Octavious, Shan Wallace, Djeneba Aduayom, Wulf Bradley, Miranda Barnes, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Sophia Wilson, Erik Carter, Kennedi Carter, Myles Loftin, Quil Lemons, Adrienne Raquel, Andrea Ellen Reed, John Edmonds, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe and Monica Ahanonu.

The September issue will appear on newsstands on September 1—undoubtedly, we will have excerpts to share as content from the special issue is released.

“I’m honored to be partnering with Radhika and the entire Vanity Fair staff on this project,” said Coates. “Equally, I’m humbled that so many of this country’s best writers and artists have agreed to participate. The moment is too big for any one of us to address alone.”

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Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



I look forward to buying this one issue off the newsstand because I canceled/didn’t renew my subscription earlier this year.

I’ll recoup my money taking the following bets:

1. Annie Leibovitz doesn’t shoot the pics of the Black Intelligentsia


2. She does and shoots them in black & white, full sepia or in some other poorly-lit way like degraded film stock or something. Someone will be barefoot, in torn clothes or with a shiny face signifying uncleanness or with unkempt hair. Someone will be outside, in a jungle or forest setting or in an opulent setting dressed in ripped or stained jeans and a t-shirt. Someone will be photographed splayed out as if gunshot, or in a trash-strewn concrete lot of public housing project or some other ghetto streetscape. Someone will be styled as either a slave, slaveowners or other antebellum plantation worker (like blacksmith). Someone will be depicted mean-mugging, screaming or otherwise acting savagely. Someone will be styled as an historic Black figure.


3. Another photog will shoot them in any of the above ways and call it an homage to Annie.