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By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Two African-American professors have been awarded 2011 MacArthur Fellowships — also called “Genius Grants” — for exceptional creative work in their fields. Roland Fryer and Tiya Miles were named fellowship recipients this week among 22 total winners in fields ranging from music to architecture. All fellows will receive $500,000 from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation paid out over five years, plus health insurance — “no-strings-attached” money they can use as they wish. Blacks have made up roughly 10% of MacArthur Fellowship recipients since the inception of the award in 1981, which is amazing because the grant cannot be applied for. One must be recommended and selected by panels whose members keep a low profile. Given that we represent 12% of the U.S. population, it’s shocking that we enjoy parity as recognized geniuses, but lag behind in many fields in terms of representation. Let’s take a look at current and previous African-American MacArthur Fellowship winners who are shining examples of our highest capacities for cultural contribution.


Tiya Miles

2011 MacArthur Fellow, Public Historian

From “Miles, 41, is a history professor at the University of Michigan whose work focuses on the relationship between African and Cherokee people living and working in Colonial America. She’s already published two books on the subject: Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom in 2005 and The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story in 2010.”

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