Robin D.G. Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of U.S. History at UCLA, is one of six recipients of the 2021 Freedom Scholars Awards from the Marguerite Casey Foundation and the Group Health Foundation. Now in its second year, the $1.5 million in awards support thinkers and scholars whose work can help improve the economy and society.

Kelley is a prolific author and editor. He is working on three book projects including “Black Bodies Swinging: An American Postmortem,” a genealogy of the Black Spring protests of 2020 by way of a deep examination of state-sanctioned racialized violence and a history of resistance; a biography of Grace Halsell, the Texas-born journalist and granddaughter of Confederate slave owners; and a collaborative survey of African American history.

The two foundations partnered to recognize scholars who provide critical data, analysis, and ideas to movements working to shift the balance of power in society. The 2021 Freedom Scholars are leading research in critical fields including abolitionist, Black, feminist, queer, radical and anti-colonialist studies.

The annual award counters the limited financial resources and research constraints frequently faced by scholars whose work supports social movements. The cohort of scholars will each receive $250,000 in unrestricted funds, distributed over two years, to use as they see fit.

“These scholars’ bold ideas and visionary leadership are critical to the modern liberation movements that our society desperately needs,” said Carmen Rojas, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

The 2021 cohort of scholars includes:

  • Amna Akbar — associate professor of law at the Ohio State University, and co-author of “Race, Racism, and American Law, 7th Ed.”
  • Angélica Cházaro — assistant professor, University of Washington School of Law, and community organizer for immigrant justice and prison abolition.
  • Cathy Cohen — David and Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago, and author of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics.”
  • Lorgia García Peña — Mellon Associate Professor of studies in race, colonialism and diaspora, Tufts University, and author of “The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nations and Archives of Contradictions.”
  • Orisanmi Burton — assistant professor of anthropology, American University. Burton is developing the manuscript, “Tip of the Spear: The Long Attica Rebellion and Prison Pacification in the Empire State.”