Live-tweeting Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture

Award-winning journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates came to Rackham Auditorium last week, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. Since working at The Michigan Daily every weeknight for the past year, I’ve rarely been able attend lectures or events the University of Michigan has to offer. (Unless, of course, I’m covering it for the paper.)

As an aspiring journalist, I found Coates’ passion and talent intriguing. Perhaps best known for his piece in The Atlantic “The Case for Reparations,” Coates has a rich understanding of history and institutional racism in the United States.  He also runs an incredible blog on The Atlantic’s website.

My friends and I spotted him in the audience before he spoke. Though I’ve read a lot of his work, I never saw any recordings of his speeches, lectures, or appearances on talk shows.

When he took the stage, I was in awe of how casual, yet intelligent he was. As a journalist, I often look exclusively for “quotable” lines from a speech to tweet out and include in my story. However, Coates made his lecture almost like a casual conversation as he recounted African American history in the U.S., starting at slavery and ending at racism today.

I had trouble finding these “quotable” quotes, though I remained enticed throughout the whole lecture. Every so often I tried to summarize his statements in my tweets, but his ideas, research, and thoughts on racism and inequality were so nuanced it was difficult to state in my own words.

The tweet that drew the most reaction, though, was one that quoted him directly. It was difficult to find these short snippets that made for great tweets, but when I did, they garnered a lot of reaction on Twitter.

@umich retweeted this from my account, so it clearly got more recognition as it was blasted to their 107,000+ followers.

Moreover, much of my following from the lecture on Twitter came from my status as the Editor in Chief of The Michigan Daily. My twitter feed is usually news, and that’s what my followers expect from me.

Here, an Ann Arbor News reporter, told his followers to follow me as the lecture progressed, since he couldn’t be there himself:

And a few of my friends had quite a following as well throughout the lecture:

(Sam and Will were able to summarize what Coates said pretty easily.)

(Allana was covering the event for the Daily and tweeted much more than me or others were.)

Aside from retweets from other Twitter feeds, here’s a list of my tweets from start to finish:

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