Ta-Nehisi Coates Guest Edits 'Vanity Fair' September Issue

Vanity Fair’s September issue is guest edited by writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and features contributions from more than 40 writers, artists and photographers, most of them people of color.

The special edition explores art, activism and power in 21st-century America.

“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?” stated Vanity Fair editor in chief Radhika Jones. “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.”



Coates is the best-selling author of “The Beautiful Struggle,” “We Were Eight Years in Power,” “Between the World and Me” and “The Water Dancer.” 

He is also the current author of the Marvel comics “Black Panther” and “Captain America.”

Working with the editorial and creative teams, Coates helped oversee nearly every part of the magazine’s production, including story assigning and editing, writer and photographer selection, art direction, design, display and multimedia projects.

In her editor’s letter, Jones said the Vanity Fair team asked Coates to guest edit the issue in late May, “when the protests were gaining momentum and the death toll from COVID-19 had surpassed 100,000 Americans.”

The September issue is “one of the most important of the year,” and “is usually planned months in advance,” she added.

But for this year’s edition, “we did not have the luxury of time, but we had something more galvanizing: the urgency of the moment."

The feature portfolio, “You Said Hope,” is a collection of artists, activists and visionaries. According to Jones, it is the result of 19 photo shoots, often conducted in subjects’ backyards. 

“It was our shared goal to make a magazine that would capture the spirit of this time, and that it would be beautiful, a keepsake. An object to push back against ephemerality. A way to remember, and a sign of things to come,” Jones wrote.

Coates, who is joining Vanity Fair as a contributing editor, explains why the issue is called “The Great Fire” in his editor’s letter.

The cover of the special issue is a portrait of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman shot and killed by police in March in her Louisville apartment.

The painting of Taylor is by artist Amy Sherald, who also painted the portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. 

The Vanity Fair issue hits newsstands September 1. 

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