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Boston University's Ibram X. Kendi Among MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant Recipients

BOSTON (CBS/AP) -- Ibram X. Kendi, who founded Boston University's Center For Antiracist Research last year, has been awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation's "genius grants" for 2021.

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Tuesday announced the 25 recipients, who will each receive $625,000.

The eclectic group of winners includes historians, activists, scientists, economists, poets, and filmmakers. As in previous years, the work of several recipients involves topics that have been dominating the news — from voting rights to how history is taught in schools.

Race figures prominently in the work of about half of them, including that of Kendi, author of "How to be an Antiracist" and "Stamped from the Beginning." He will contribute an essay to the forthcoming book "The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story" that's based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "1619 Project" that centers U.S. history around slavery.

The selection process for the MacArthur grants is shrouded in secrecy. Instead of applications, anonymous groups make nominations and recommendations to the foundation's board of directors.

Two of this year's fellows have ties to Cambridge. Marcella Alsan, a physician-economist at Harvard University, is working to better communicate the need for the COVID-19 vaccine to communities that distrust medical institutions. Taylor Perron, a geomorphologist at MIT, was recognized for "unraveling the mechanisms that create landscapes on Earth and other planets." He's currently studying river networks on Mars and one of Saturn's moons for clues about the climate history of each celestial body.

"As we emerge from the shadows of the past two years, this class of 25 Fellows helps us re-imagine what's possible," said Cecilia Conrad, the foundation's managing director of fellows.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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