Journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, announced just last week as the writer of Marvel's new Black Panther comic, is one of 24 people selected as 2015 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Commonly referred to as a "genius grant," the prestigious award comes with a $625,000 cash prize distributed quarterly over five years, with no strings attached.
"When I first got the call from the MacArthur Foundation, I was ecstatic," Coates, author of the bestselling Between the World and Me, says in the video below, "and then I was deeply, deeply honored. We labor in the dark, y'know. If anybody even reads what I'm doing, that's a great day."
First awarded in 1981, the prize is presented annually to 20 to 40 individuals in the arts, humanities, science and public issues. The MacArthur Foundation views the fellowship not as a reward for past accomplishments, but rather “an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential.”
"Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing," the foundation states. "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."
Coates, the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, frequently writes about comic books online. He'll collaborate with artist Brian Stelfreeze on Black Panther, which debuts in the spring.
Acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel received a genius grant last year.