Three African Americans Win MacArthur Genius Award: All Are Prominent Academics

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation announced recently the names of 23 individuals who won the organization’s 2010 fellowships, which are commonly referred to as “genius grants.” Recipients receive $500,000 over the next five years. There are no stipulations. The program aims to allow recipients to continue their work without having to worry about their financial well-being. Each recipient also receives health insurance for the duration of the fellowship.

This year, three of the 23 MacArthur fellows are black. All three hold academic positions. Here are brief biographies of the three African-American winners.

Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor at Harvard Law School. She holds a joint appointment in Harvard’s history department and is the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She previously taught at New York Law School and Rutgers University.

Gordon-Reed is the recipient of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize in history, and the National Humanities Medal. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

Jason Moran is a pianist, composer, and bandleader. His work transcends the genres of jazz, blues, classical, and hip-hop music. Moran is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. He recently joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory.

John Dabiri is an associate professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. His recent research involves the use of theoretical fluid dynamics to study the locomotion of jellyfish.

Professor Dabiri is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from CalTech.

Over the past 29 years, 96 African Americans have been awarded MacArthur fellowships with cash awards of $35.1 million. Thirteen of the 96 awardees have been graduates of Ivy League colleges. Fourteen earned their bachelor’s degrees at historically black colleges or universities. Fifty-two of the 96 black MacArthur fellows earned at least one graduate degree. Twenty-three black fellows, mostly musicians and artists, never graduated from college.