Three Black Academics Awarded MacArthur Foundation Fellowships

macarthur-fellows-thumbThe Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has announced the selection of 23 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 this year’s 23 MacArthur Fellows, four are African Americans and three have current ties to the academic world.

2016 MacArthur Fellows

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kellie Jones and Claudia Rankine

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a playwright whose works explore issues of identity, family, class, and race. His 2012 play “Appropriate” explores issue of race when a White family comes together for their father’s funeral and finds a collection of photographs of lynchings among his possessions. Jacob-Jenkins is the master artist-in-residence in the master of fine arts degree program in play writing at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s degree from New York University.

Kellie Jones is an associate professor in the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University in New York City. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, she taught at Yale University from 1999 to 2006. Dr. Jones is the author of Eyeminded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art (Duke University Press, 2011). Dr. Jones is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University.

Claudia Rankine is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry in the department of English at Yale University. Earlier, she taught at the University of Southern California, Pomona College and Barnard College. Professor Rankine made literary history when she was the first author to have a work nominated as a finalist in two categories in the 39-year history of the National Book Critics Circle Awards. She won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for her book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014). Professor Rankine is a native of Jamaica and moved to the United States at the age of 7. She is a graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she majored in literature. Professor Rankine holds a master of fine arts degree in poetry from Columbia University.


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  1. Audrey Battiste says:

    Congratulations to these three individual geniuses. We can add their names to the ever growing list of black geniuses who have already been publically identified.

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