The awards — whose selection process is a closely guarded secret — come with $500,000 over five years.
Coates is an accomplished writer and thinker, whose long-form work has distilled many of the issues of race in America that have come to the fore in the age of #Ferguson and #Blacklivesmatter. Coates's #1 New York Times 2015 bestselling memoir Between the World and Me is a must-read for anyone trying to get their heads around America's racial politics and history.
Coates's 20 co-winners include puppeteer Basil Twist; neuroscientist Beth Stevens; playwright, composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda; writer Ben Lerner; sociologist Matthew Desmond; computational biologist John Novembre; and education entrepreneur Patrick Awuah.
"When I first got the call from the MacArthur foundation I was ecstatic," Coates said in a video on the foundation website. The national correspondent for The Atlantic, who writes about racial identity and systematic racial bias, added, "You know, if anybody even reads what I'm doing, that's a great day."
Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates Among 2015 MacArthur 'Genius' Award Winners
Meet the 2015 MacArthur Fellows [MacArthur Foundation]