The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.
What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:
1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles
“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”
2. Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago
“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.”
3. Rhiannon Giddens, 40, singer, instrumentalist and songwriter living in Greensboro, N.C.
“Rhiannon Giddens is reclaiming African American contributions to folk and country music and bringing to light new connections between music from the past and the present.”
4. Nikole Hannah-Jones, 41, journalist living in New York City
“Nikole Hannah-Jones is chronicling the persistence of racial segregation in American society, particularly in education, and reshaping national conversations around education reform.”
5. Tyshawn Sorey, 37, composer and musician living in Middletown, Connecticut
“Tyshawn Sorey is assimilating and transforming ideas from a broad spectrum of musical idioms and defying distinctions between genres, composition, and improvisation in a singular expression of contemporary music.”
6. Jesmyn Ward, 40, fiction writer living in New Orleans
“Jesmyn Ward is exploring the enduring bonds of community and familial love among poor African Americans in the rural South against a landscape of circumscribed possibilities and lost potential.”