Three Blacks Win MacArthur Genius Awards

The winners of MacArthur Foundation genius awards are scholars and artists — generally not well known to the American public — who have accomplished much in their chosen fields. The grants are designed to reward the recipients for their past work, to free them of financial obligations, and to enable them to take on new projects. Each awardee receives $500,000 distributed in quarterly installments of $25,000 over a five-year period. Recipients also receive health insurance for the duration of their MacArthur fellowships. Grantees are free to use the money any way they wish. There are no strings attached and no reporting requirements.

This year, of the 25 recipients, three blacks won MacArthur grants. Two are college graduates and one has two master’s degrees.

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

Chimamanda Adichie, 31 years old, is a native of Nigeria who divides her time between the United States and Africa. An accomplished writer, she develops strong character portrayals in the backdrop of historical novels set in post-colonial Africa.

Will Allen is the founder of Growing Power, a non-profit organization that deals with cultivating healthy food and designing distribution networks within an urban setting. He operates a two-acre urban farm in Milwaukee and lectures throughout the country on his farming methods to bring low-cost, healthy food to residents of the inner city.

Over the past 40 years, Mary Jackson has devoted herself to basketry as an art form. Her art has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and other museums and galleries across the United States.