[Top L to R: Monika Schleier-Smith, Ralph Lemon, N.K. Jemisin, Jacqueline Woodson; Bottom L to R: Fred Moten, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Catherine Coleman Flowers, Tressie McMillan Cottom and Thomas Wilson Mitchell; photos courtesy macfound.org]

Every year, the MacArthur Fellows Program awards its recipients a $625,000 “no strings attached” grant, an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential so they may continue to “exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.”

In 2020, nine of the 21 “geniuses” that have been selected are Black. Among them are award-winning author N.K. Jemisin who wrote the science fiction series The Broken Earth Trilogy, and Jacqueline Woodson, who wrote the young adult books Brown Girl Dreaming and Harbor Me, among others.

Sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom, artist Ralph Lemon, environmental activist Catherine Coleman Flowers, law scholar Thomas Wilson Mitchell and experimental physicist Monika Schleier-Smith are among the other 2020 MacArthur Fellows. A full list and brief bios follow below:

N. K. Jemisin is a speculative fiction writer exploring deeply human questions about structural racism, environmental…



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