Adam Harris is a staff writer at The Atlantic where he has covered education and national politics since 2018. He is the author of The State Must Provide (Ecco), an incisive definitive history outlining how racial inequality was built into American higher education from the beginning and how it’s been maintained.
In The State Must Provide, Harris reckons with the history of a higher education system that has systematically excluded Black people from its benefits, weaving through the legal, social, and political obstacles erected to block equitable education in the United States, studying the Black Americans who fought their way to an education, pivotal Supreme Court cases like Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, and the government’s role in creating and upholding a segregated education system. He explores the role that Civil War–era legislation intended to bring agricultural education to the masses had in creating the HBCUs that have played such a major part in educating Black students when other state and private institutions refused to accept them. Throughout the narrative, Harris provides a forward-looking solution to remedy centuries of racial discrimination.
Bringing together his personal experiences as well as his acclaimed reporting, Harris offers an opportunity to discuss the impact of history and a path to a more equitable tomorrow in his presentations, conversations, and panel discussions. A highly regarded speaker, Harris is a frequent presenter for universities, academic institutions, and educational forums.
Previously, Harris was a reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education where he covered federal education policy and historically Black colleges and universities. Prior to joining The Chronicle, he worked at ProPublica and was a 2021 National Fellow at New America. He is also the recipient of the Rising Star Award by the News Media Alliance. Harris was named to the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and his writing has appeared in BBC, Bleacher Report, and EBONY Magazine. Currently, he resides in Virginia and is working on his second book, Is This America?, a history of the South’s role in politics and how the region shapes us as a nation—but not always in the ways we assume it does.
Praise for The State Must Provide:
“Harris’s writing is as refreshing as it is haunting… ‘The State Must Provide’ is a must-read, detailing the complex dynamics that both reflect our nation’s dark history and show us a way toward a more equitable future.”
--New York Times Book Review
“Adam Harris is a brilliant storyteller. He has used his unique literary gifts to synthesize two centuries of history in order to construct an historical account of higher-education that reads like a novel. The State Must Provide is a book that both taught me so much and also kept me on the edge of my seat. It is an invaluable text from a supremely talented writer.”
-- Clint Smith, author of #1 New York Times Bestseller How The Word is Passed
"Adam Harris shows how the dark history of America's vaunted higher education system continues to prevent true equality. He's the kind of journalist we most need: meticulous in his research, careful in his thinking, passionate in his vision. This book is powerful, quietly angry, revelatory, and utterly persuasive."
-- George Packer, author of Last Best Hope and The Unwinding
“Adam Harris’s definitive and necessary book shows how thoroughly the U.S. has barred Black people from its halls of higher learning, and how high those barriers remain today. Harris’s storytelling is vivid, his reporting is immaculate, and his case is damning. This book is a punch in the gut. Let it also be a line in the sand.”
-- Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
“A spectacular book—the research alone is a tour de force. Harris makes an indisputable argument about the historical and ongoing role of the state in crippling Black higher education in a book that is passionate and a delight to read.”
-- Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education and former Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education
“Illuminating…. A well-researched, potent, timely investigation of yet another element of systemic racism.”
-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This thought provoking, timely, and engaging read gives space to subject matter that has largely gone ignored and unaddressed, and offers readers much food for thought on the topic of discrimination and systemic racism in higher education.”