The Atlantic journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates might be having the best year ever. Coates' second book, Between the World and Me, was released earlier this year to critical acclaim and a firm standing on the New York Times best-seller list. It was announced earlier this month that Coates, when not performing feats akin to a black superhero, like crippling systematic racism or thwarting long-standing injustice with the stroke of a pen, will actually be writing a superhero's story, since Marvel has pegged the writer to spend a year crafting the Black Panther comic. And on Tuesday it was announced that Coates, along with 23 others, has been named a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation award more commonly referred to as the "genius" grant.
"When I first got the call from the MacArthur Foundation I was ecstatic," Coates says in a video posted to the foundation's website. "Then I was deeply, deeply honored. We labor in the dark. If anybody even reads what I'm doing, that's a great debt."
The no-strings-attached grant awards recipients $625,000, paid out over five years, so that they can explore and create without the burden of financial stress. Award winners are not obligated to produce work and can spend their grant however they see fit. The award is "an investment in a person's originality, insight and potential," the foundation explains on its website. "The purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society."
The MacArthur "Class of 2015" also includes Patrick Awuah, who once worked as a Microsoft engineer before moving back to his native Ghana and opening Ashesi University, "a four-year private institution that offers a core curriculum grounded in liberal arts, ethical principles and skills for contemporary African needs and opportunities," the foundation website notes.
LaToya Ruby Frazier, a photographer and video artist who captures the intersection of race, health, place and family against the crumbling background of Braddock, Pa., a once-thriving steel town, is another grant recipient. At 33, Frazier is this year's youngest MacArthur fellow.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright, composer, lyricist and performer who penned the Broadway darlings In the Heights (2007) and the recently released Hamilton, and the community leader Juan Salgado both also received the prestigious award.
See the full list of MacArthur fellows here.