There are three poets on this year’s list of MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’ fellows; Hanif Abdurraqib, Reginald Dwayne Betts, and Don Mee Choi. This is the first time since 1998 that there have been that many poets on the list.

The recently announced list of 2021 MacArthur Foundation fellows is an inspiring lineup of activists, visionaries, scientists, and creatives.

We set out to list the writers and poets who are among this year’s fellows, but, as always, trying to parse out all the writers from the list is a challenge since many creatives may be acknowledged for one area of their work but are also writers.

For instance, this year’s most famous winner is the historian and activist Ibram X. Kendi. He is cited for his work as an American historian and cultural critic but he also happens to have become a household name through his book, ‘How to be an Anti-Racist,‘ and is able to reach thousands of people because of his essays and papers in various publications.


2021 MacArthur Fellows

Another fellow, art historian, Nicole Fleetwood, is the author of ‘Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness‘ (2011) and ‘On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination‘ (2015). Civil rights activist, Desmond Meade, also on the list, is the author of the book ‘Let My People Vote‘ (2020).

At the end of the day, we are reminded that no matter what you do, the written expression of one’s thoughts, values, and journey is a critical part of documentation and storytelling.

The fellows receive US$625,000 each and can use this money in any way they wish.

“As we emerge from the shadows of the past two years, this class of 25 Fellows helps us reimagine what’s possible. They demonstrate that creativity has no boundaries,” said MacArthur Fellows managing director Cecilia Conrad in a statement.

Here is the full list of MacArthur 2021 Fellowship winners.

Hanif Abdurraqib, 38,
music critic, essayist, and poet
“Forging a distinctive style of cultural and artistic criticism through the lens of popular music and autobiography.”

Daniel Alarcón, 44,
writer and radio producer
“Chronicling the social and cultural ties that connect Spanish-speaking communities across the Americas.”

Reginald Dwayne Betts, 40,
poet and lawyer
“Promoting the humanity and rights of individuals who are or have been incarcerated.”

Don Mee Choi, 59,
poet and translator
“Bearing witness to the effects of military violence and U.S. imperialism on the civilians of the Korean Peninsula.”

Ibram X. Kendi, 39,
American historian and cultural critic
“Advancing conversations around anti-Black racism and possibilities for repair in a variety of initiatives and platforms.”

Marcella Alsan, 44,
“Investigating the role that legacies of discrimination and resulting mistrust play in perpetuating racial disparities in health.”

List continues below video…



Trevor Bedford, 39,
computational virologist
“Developing tools for real-time tracking of virus evolution and the spread of infectious diseases.”

Jordan Casteel, 32,
“Capturing everyday encounters with people of color in portraits that invite reciprocal recognition of our shared humanity.”

Ibrahim Cissé, 38,
cellular biophysicist
“Developing microscopy tools to investigate the subcellular processes underlying genetic regulation and misfunction.”

Nicole Fleetwood, 48,
art historian and curator
“Elucidating the cultural and aesthetic significance of visual art created by incarcerated people.”

Cristina Ibarra, 49,
documentary filmmaker
“Crafting nuanced narratives about borderland communities, often from the perspective of Chicana and Latina youth.”

Daniel Lind-Ramos, 68,
sculptor and painter
“Transforming everyday objects into assemblages that speak to the global connections inherent in Afro-Caribbean and diaspora legacies.”

Monica Muñoz Martinez, 37,
public historian
“Bringing to light long-obscured cases of racial violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and their reverberations in the present.

Desmond Meade, 54,
civil rights activist
“Working to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens and remove barriers to their full participation in civic life.”

Joshua Miele, 52,
adaptive technology designer
“Developing devices to enable blind and visually impaired people to access everyday technologies and digital information.”

Michelle Monje, 45,
neurologist and neuro-oncologist
“Advancing understanding of pediatric brain cancers and the effects of cancer treatments with an eye toward improved therapies for patients.”

Safiya Noble, 51,
digital media scholar
“Highlighting the ways digital technologies and internet architectures magnify racism, sexism, and harmful stereotypes.”

J. Taylor Perron, 44,
“Deconstructing the physical processes that create landforms on Earth and other planetary bodies.”

Alex Rivera, 48,
filmmaker and media artist
“Exploring issues around migration to the United States and exploitative labor practices with an activist orientation.”

Lisa Schulte Moore, 50,
landscape ecologist
“Implementing locally relevant approaches to improve soil and water quality and strengthen the resilience of row crop agriculture.”

Jesse Shapiro, 41,
applied microeconomist
“Devising new frameworks of analysis to advance understanding of media bias, ideological polarization, and the efficacy of public policy interventions.”

Jacqueline Stewart, 51,
cinema studies scholar and curator
“Ensuring that the contributions of overlooked Black filmmakers and communities of spectators have a place in the public imagination.”

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, 49,
“Analyzing the political and economic forces underlying racial inequality and the role of social movements in transforming society.”

Victor J. Torres, 44,
“Investigating how bacterial pathogens overcome the immune system and identifying potential therapies.”

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, 70,
choreographer and dancer
“Using the power of dance and artistic expression to elevate the voices of Black women and promote civic engagement.”

Fungai Tichawangana
Author: Fungai Tichawangana

Fungai is a journalist, writer and web developer who is passionate about tech and promoting the arts. In 2015 he was awarded a Nieman Journalism Fellowship and Berkman Klein Fellowship for Journalism Innovation.

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