One Quarter of the Latest Cohort of MacArthur Fellows Are Black

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has announced the selection of 24 individuals in this year’s class of MacArthur Fellows. The honors, frequently referred to as the “Genius Awards,” include a $625,000 stipend over the next five years which the individuals can use as they see fit.

Fellows are chosen for their “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.” The goal of the awards is to “encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations” without the burden of having to worry about their financial situation.

Of the latest cohort of 24 MacArthur fellows, it appears that six are Black. Three currently hold academic posts at colleges or universities.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey and Rhiannon Giddens
Photos © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby is native of Nigeria but now lives in the United States. She is a painter whose large-scale works often include figures, sometime family members, situated in domestic settings. She has taught at the California Institute of the Arts , the Maryland Institute College of Art , and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Crosby is a graduate of Swarthmore College and holds a master of fine arts degree from Yale University.

Dawoud Bey is a photographer and educator. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Walker Art Center, the National Portrait Gallery (London), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. He is currently a professor in the department of photography at Columbia College in Chicago. Professor Bey is a graduate of Empire State College of the State University of New York System. He holds a master of fine arts degree from Yale University.

Rhiannon Giddens is a singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter from Greensboro, North Carolina. She trained as an opera singer before returning to North Carolina to immerse herself in traditional American roots music. Giddens is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward
Photos © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist for The New York Times chronicling the  persistence of segregation in American society, particularly in education. In 2015, she co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. Hannah-Jones is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and holds a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tyshawn Sorey is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, ensemble leader, conductor, and educator. He is an assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, specializing in creative improvised and experimental music traditions. Dr. Sorey is a graduate of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. He earned a master’s degree at Wesleyan University and a doctorate in musical arts from Columbia University.

Jesmyn Ward is an associate professor of English at Tulane University in New Orleans. Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her novel Salvage the Bones and again in 2017 for her book Sing, Unburied Sing (Scribner, 2017). She is the only woman to win two National Book Awards. Before joining the faculty at Tulane University in 2014, Ward was an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama. Ward holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Michigan.

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