Seven Black Academics Win Guggenheim Fellowships

The Guggenheim Fellowship is one of America’s most prestigious awards. The annual grants go to artists, scholars, and scientists on the basis of distinguished accomplishments as well as for demonstrated potential for exceptional achievement in future endeavors. The grants are sometimes referred to as midcareer fellowships. But this year the ages of the winners are from 29 to 70 years old.

In 2009 nearly 3,000 people applied for Guggenheim Fellowships and 180 were selected for grants. The Guggenheim Foundation does not publish statistics on the race of the recipients of its awards. Yet JBHE has determined that at least 10 of this year’s 180 awards went to blacks. Of these 10 individuals, seven have current academic affiliations.

Here is a brief look at the seven black academics who were awarded Guggenheim Fellowships this year.

• Chris Abani, a native of Nigeria, is professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Professor Abani is author of the award-winning novels Song for Night and The Virgin of Flames.

Jabari Asim is scholar-in-residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Asim spent 11 years at The Washington Post, where he served as deputy editor of the book review. For three years Asim wrote a syndicated column on political and social issues for the Post.

• Thomas L. Bradshaw is a playwright. He is also assistant professor of English at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Bradshaw is a graduate of Bard College and holds a master in fine arts degree from Brooklyn College.

• Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School. This year she has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize for her book The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.

• Terrance Hayes is a professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. This year he is one of only nine poets of any race selected for Guggenheim Fellowships.

• Wadada Leo Smith is an accomplished trumpeter and composer. He is currently director of the African-American improvisational music program at the California Institute of the Arts.

• Deborah Gray White is Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University. She specializes in African-American and women’s history. She is currently working on a book entitled Can’t We All Get Along: The Cultural Awakenings of the 1990s.