It’s official. Baltimore-born author Ta-Nehisi Coates is a genius. That is to say, Coates was named among 24 recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as “genius grants.”
Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic whose 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations” and 2015 book Between the World and Me have injected equal parts scholarly analysis and empathy into the ongoing conversation surrounding race in America.
I can only imagine this award comes at the perfect time for Coates, who turns 40 literally tomorrow and who could therefore use a completely unambiguous marker of accomplishment. (Not like he was exactly lacking, but still.)
Or as the man himself put it:
Dear age 40, I win. Sincerely, Ta-Nehisi
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) September 29, 2015
The award comes with more than an ego boost. Coates, just like his 23 co-fellows, will receive $625,000 paid out over five years in quarterly installments. The money comes with no strings attached. MacArthur fellows “don’t have to report to” to the MacArthur Foundation and “can use the money any way they see fit.”
MacArthur Fellowships, awarded to Americans and American residents “who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” cannot be applied for. Potential fellows are nominated by an anonymous group and decided upon by another, smaller group, also anonymous. Little else is known about the process, but I like to imagine the committee wearing cloaks and meeting around an old wooden table in a room lit only by candles shoved into wine glasses.
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