24 Contemporary Creators Win MacArthur “Genius” Awards


Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, playwright, composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda and community leader Juan Salgado are among 24 winners of the 2015 “genius” grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


“When I first got the call from the MacArthur foundation I was ecstatic,” said Coates, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, who writes about racial identity and systematic racial bias.


The fellowship recipients hail from a variety of fields including music, photography, biology and economics. Each will receive $625,000 over five years to continue his or her work or pursue something entirely new.


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist, blogger, and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.


In his passionate and lyrical book-length essay, “Between the World and Me,” he addressed to his teenage son and unflinchingly articulates the physical and mental experience of being a Black man in America today.


Lin-Manuel Miranda is a composer, lyricist and performer reimagining American musical theater in works that fuse traditional storytelling with contemporary musical styles and voices. Well-versed in the structure and history of musical theater, Miranda expands its idiom with the aesthetic of popular culture and stories from individuals and communities new to Broadway stages.


Lin-Manuel Miranda

Miranda explores the dramatic potential of hip-hop in “Hamilton” (2015), in which he uses an urban soundscape to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton’s rise from an orphaned West Indian immigrant to America’s first Treasury Secretary. Miranda presents policy battles, love triangles and duels through high velocity lyrics, replete with false and slant rhymes that expand the range of both pop and Broadway music.


Juan Salgado is a community leader helping immigrants overcome barriers to success in the workplace and build the human capital of their communities. Through the Instituto del Progreso Latino, which he has led since 2001, Salgado works with members of the low-income, Latino immigrant communities on Chicago’s southwest side.


Most adults in these communities work in menial jobs and face formidable barriers to upward mobility. Few have high school diplomas and many lack the English-language skills needed for a GED or vocational training program.


Juan Salgado, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Salgado has pioneered an education program that adapts the principles of contextualized learning to equip these workers with the skills that lead to higher-paying employment in manufacturing and health care sectors with a growing demand for a diverse, multilingual workforce.


Participants achieve three goals concurrently: complete an adult basic education program, improve language abilities and acquire job skills. The Instituto’s Carreras en Salud program prepares adults for college-level registered nurse programs, meeting a need for bilingual health care; its Manufacturing Technology Bridge program gives workers the high-level skills needed on the modern factory floor.


The Instituto also provides counseling to identify and overcome other obstacles to employment, such as transportation, childcare and elder care.



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