A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates

Gregory Halpern

A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates

Past Event: Sunday, October 20, 2019

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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All tickets for this event are sold out. However, we will be selling standby tickets, space provided, the night of the event. We will begin handing out standby numbers at the Benaroya Box Office beginning at 6:00pm. $40 general admission; $10 for Students/25 & Under (ID required), cash preferred. Standby tickets do not include Coates’ book.

All ticket bundles (except Student/U25, complimentary, and standby tickets) include Coates’ new novel, The Water Dancer.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of our most original and perceptive voices on racial identity, systemic racial bias, and white supremacy. The author of the bestselling nonfiction works The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World And Me, he can now add novelist to his list of achievements. The Water Dancer, a boldly imagined novel of magic and adventure, is coming out this September.

Coates is the author of three bestselling books: the memoir The Beautiful Struggle – a reflection on race, class, and masculinity that tells of his growing up in Baltimore, the son of a former Black Panther; Between The World And Me, written in the form of a letter to his son about American racial injustice; and We Were Eight Years in Power, a collection of essays on the Obama Era published in The Atlantic.

His forthcoming novel, The Water Dancer, is about a young black man, born into slavery in Virginia, who discovers he is gifted with a mysterious power; soon after, he embarks on a journey into the covert war on slavery, which takes him from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s plantations to abolitionist guerrilla cells in the wilderness.

Coates’ essays have appeared in local and national publications, including the Village Voice, the Washington Post, The New York Times MagazineTime MagazineThe New Yorker, and The Atlantic, where he was a national correspondent until 2018. His widely popular column at The Atlantic earned him a place on the TIME Best Blogs of 2011 list and the 2012 Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism. Among his many other accolades, he has been awarded a MacArthur Grant in 2015, and Between the World and Me won the National Book Award in 2015.

A big comic book fan since childhood, Coates was delighted when he was tapped by Marvel in 2016 to write the new Black Panther comic series in cooperation with the illustrator Brian Stelfreeze, and a new Captain America title with artist Leinil Yu.

Coates is currently a writer in residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is working on several projects, including a television project about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, titled America in the King Years, produced by Oprah Winfrey to air on HBO, based on one of the volumes of the books of the same title by Taylor Branch.

This is Coates’ third appearance on the SAL stage.

Dr. Charles Johnson, our moderator for the evening, is a University of Washington (Seattle) professor emeritus and the author of 24 books, is a novelist, philosopher, essayist, literary scholar, short-story writer, cartoonist and illustrator, an author of children’s literature, and a screen-and-teleplay writer. A MacArthur fellow, Johnson has received a 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, a 1990 National Book Award for his novel Middle Passage, a 1985 Writers Guild award for his PBS teleplay “Booker,” the 2016 W.E.B. Du Bois Award at the National Black Writers Conference, and many other awards. The Charles Johnson Society at the American Literature Association was founded in 2020, Lifeline Theater in Chicago will debut its play adaptation of Middle Passage, titled “Rutherford’s Travels.” Dr. Johnson’s most recent publications are The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling, and his fourth short story collection, Night Hawks.

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Know Before You Go

Don't have your tickets?

Most tickets have been emailed, so be sure to check your inbox for an email from boxoffice@lectures.org. Call us at 206-621-2230 x10 if you can’t find them.

Have a question for the speaker?

Send your question to SAL’s Associate Director at rahoogs@lectures.org—it might be asked onstage!


All tickets for this event include Coates’ new book, The Water Dancer, except Student/U25, complimentary, and standby tickets. You should receive a Coates Book Ticket with your admission ticket. Exchange this ticket at the book tables located at the main entrance to Benaroya Hall before or after the event.

Elliott Bay Book Company will have copies of Coates’ work available for purchase at their table in the lobby.

Patrons & Grand Patrons, you're invited to Happy Hour!

Patrons & Grand Patrons, join us for light bites and wine on the Promenade at Benaroya Hall from 6:30 to 7:15.


Please note that there will be additional security at this event. Ticket holders will be given more details closer to the event.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season. For digital streams of online events, all pre-recorded and live online events will have either open or closed captioning.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at boxoffice@lectures.org or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at boxoffice@lectures.org, or Monday-Friday from 10:00am – 5:00pm at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to lectures.org/accessibility. If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.