Art historian and curator Kellie Jones is used to thinking big, but when the Columbia University professor learned that she was one of this year’s MacArthur Fellowship winners, she had a small thought, she told NewsOne.

“I want to buy a new desk,” said Jones, 57, who is an associate professor in the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University in New York City. “I’ve had it since college.”

Indeed, the small wooden desk has served her well. As an art historian, her work focuses on a deeper understanding of contemporary art of the African Diaspora. Her research has been instrumental in introducing the work of important Black artists, including Martin Puryear, David Hammons, and Lorna Simpson, to varied audiences and highlighting long-forgotten or overlooked Black artists, notes the foundation.

The daughter of famed poets Amiri Baraka and Hettie Jones (her brother is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Ras Baraka), Jones is thrilled to be a recipient of the award. “It’s such an honor,” she said.

The fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which will be disbursed over five years, and gives them freedom to follow their own creative visions.

Learn more about the Black recipients below.


Claudia Rankine, 53,

Claudia Rankine

The poet is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry in the Department of English at Yale University. She told NewsOne she plans to use her award to help dismantle White supremacy through art and discourse:

“The country has tried to dismantle racism through laws, but has not yet addressed the attitudes that allows it continue.”

Rankine uses different forms of poetic expression to convey her thoughts. In The End of the Alphabet, published in 1998, she uses abstract and broken syntax to underscore the speaker’s struggle to find language to express her grief.

Other works include Nothing in Nature Is Private, published in 1994, and the 2015 essay collections, The Racial Imaginarywhich she co-edited.


Joyce J. Scott, 67

Joyce J. Scott

The Baltimore, Maryland, jewelry maker and sculptor uses her work “as a potent platform for commentary on social and political injustices,” notes the foundation’s website.


Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, 31

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

The New York City playwright draws from a wide-range of contemporary and historical theatrical genres to deal with complex issues about race, identity, family, and class. In his 2012 play, Appropriate, for example, he used an all-White cast to explore racism in America. He captured the drama surrounding a family’s discovery of a collection of lynching photographs among their dead father’s belongings.

Click here to see the full list of winners.

SOURCE: MacArthur Foundation | PHOTO CREDIT: MacArthur Foundation | VIDEO CREDIT: MacArthur Foundation

NEWS ROUNDUP: Ta-Nehisi Coates To Receive MacArthur “Genius Grant,” Brown Takes Away Bill Cosby’s Honorary Degree…AND MORE

comments – Add Yours