Imani Perry MacArthur Foundation Fellow Harvard Black grant books author

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Interdisciplinary scholar and writer Imani Perry is a Black woman who shines in the MacArthur Foundation’s roster of 2023 fellows. 

The literary force to be reckoned with, a National Book Award winner, artfully pulls from various topics and backgrounds to tell Black American stories of resistance, survival and thriving nonetheless. 

A graduate of Yale, Harvard and Georgetown University Law Center, the 51-year-old is a scholarly jill of all trades. In addition to commenting on race, gender, social justice and politics, her work’s lens also captures how the dynamics of pop culture, history, social structures and more intersect.

Her biography, shared via the MacArthur Foundation, notes that Perry is a working Harvard professor, co-founder of the Black Teacher Archive at the Ivy League institution, and a contributor for The Atlantic.

A few of her complex, thought-provoking and engaging reads include 2018’s Vexy Thing: On Gender and Liberation, 2011’s More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States, and 2004’s Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip-Hop.

In 2022, she released South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. 

In the Harper Collins published award-winning nonfiction title, the Alabama native deeply explored her connections to the South and America’s inextricable ties to the region. 

South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line,” noted the book’s synopsis.

The eight-time author, previously a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, is working on her next nonfiction exploration, shared the Harvard Gazette. Titled Black in Blues, the book tucks into “the history of Black identity in relation to the color blue.” 


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Selected nominees for the MacArthur fellowship receive a grant totaling $800,000 — paid quarterly over five years — to fund artistic, intellectual, and professional activities on their own accord.

The MacArthur Foundation has named over 1,130 grant recipients since the namesake fellowship was established in 1981.

Other powerhouse Black women selected as 2023 MacArthur Fellows are legal scholar E. Tendayi Achiume, incarceration law scholar Andrea Armstrong, multidisciplinary artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, artist Carolyn Lazard, and composer-pianist Courtney Bryan.

Becoming a MacArthur fellow is an extremely honorable feat, but to do so as a Black woman is particularly commendable.

A study published in 2020 highlighted the diversity range of MacArthur Fellows from 1981 to 2018. The research noted that white fellows accounted for over 80% of those selected by the Foundation. Moreover, men account for almost 63% of the grant winners.

Within that timespan, the data concluded that only 54 Black women (5.3%) had been MacArthur fellows.

The study added that “the overall gender gap would have been a lot higher had it not been the selection of increasing numbers of women in the past decade.”


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