Coates joined the magazine in 2008. His pieces, including “The Case for Reparations” in 2014 and “The Black Family in the Age of Incarceration,” pushed the U.S. to examine its racial structures.
Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg called Coates’ departure “a bittersweet moment.”
“As he has explained to me — and as he’s written in the recent past — the last few years for him have been years of significant changes,” Goldberg wrote in a memo to Atlantic staff. “He’s told me that he would like to take some time to reflect on these changes, and to figure out the best path forward, both as a person and as a writer.”
In May, HuffPost obtained a leaked recording of an Atlantic staff meeting about Kevin Williamson, a conservative writer the publication had hired and then fired. Coates had praised Williamson’s writing skills, and later criticized himself for having “failed” writers of color by backing the hiring.
Coates told The Washington Post that he felt like the “public face of the magazine in many ways” when he wanted to focus on his writing.
“I want to be a writer,” Coates said. “I’m not a symbol of what the Atlantic wants to do or whatever.”
Coates’ book Between the World and Me, which grapples with racism in America, won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015.
Coates is also a distinguished writer in residence at New York University.