Four Blacks Win MacArthur Foundation Genius Awards

Each year the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation presents $500,000 awards to about two dozen scholars and artists. These so-called genius awards come with no strings attached, permitting the winners to pursue their work without worrying about paying their bills.

This year, of the 24 recipients, four blacks — all college graduates — won MacArthur grants. One is a tenured professor at Johns Hopkins University and another is a guest lecturer this semester at the Yale School of Drama.

Here is a brief biographical sketch of each African American winner:

Lisa Cooper is a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. A native of Liberia, Professor Cooper is a graduate of Emory University and received her medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Cooper has conducted extensive research into deficiencies in doctor/patient communications and how this might contribute to racial health disparities.

Corey Harris is a guitarist, songwriter, and blues performer. A graduate of Bates College in Maine, Harris has performed around the world. He has recorded seven albums including his most recent Zion Crossroads.

Whitfield Lovell is an artist from New York City. A graduate of the Cooper Union School of Art, he is known for his charcoal portraits on walls, fences, and barrels. Lovell has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and at Rice University.

Lynn Nottage is a playwright from Brooklyn, New York. Her most notable play to date, Intimate Apparel, is the story of a young black seamstress in early twentieth-century New York. Nottage is a graduate of Brown University and holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama. She is spending this current semester as a guest lecturer at Yale.