September 22, 2020

Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation Announce $3 Million Freedom Scholars Initiative

Twelve progressive scholars will receive $250,000 each to support their bold thinking with the power, ideas and solutions that will change our world.

SEATTLE— Today, Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation are announcing the new $3 million Freedom Scholars initiative, which will support 12 progressive academics who are at the forefront of movements for economic and social justice, creating the catalytic ideas for transformative change.

The Freedom Scholars are leading abolitionist, Black, feminist, queer, radical, and anti-colonialist studies, critical fields of research that are often underfunded or ignored. The Freedom Scholars awards were established due to the limited financial resources and constraints that scholars, especially progressive scholars, frequently face. The cohort of 12 scholars will receive $250,000 over two years.

Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation partnered to create the Freedom Scholars Awards from a shared recognition that scholars play a critical role in cultivating the intellectual infrastructures that are necessary to nurture movements towards freedom. The two foundations look to the Freedom Scholars to help as a counter to these conditions and constraints, ensuring that scholars can undertake the full range of work necessary to build and sustain freedom movements.

“These Freedom Scholars are shifting the balance of power to families and communities that have been historically excluded from the resources and benefits of society,” says Marguerite Casey Foundation CEO and President, Dr. Carmen Rojas. “Support for their research, organizing, and academic work is pivotal in this moment where there is a groundswell of support to hold our political and economic leaders accountable. With Freedom Scholars, we seek to honor the long arc of freedom organized by leaders in our institutions of higher education.”

“Grantees have repeatedly told us they are tired of fighting for access to systems and structures that were not created for them,” says Group Health Foundation CEO Nichole June Maher. “What we want is a new vision and new ideas for what it means for our society to be just, fair and free. The Freedom Scholars are important to this reimagination.”

This first ever cohort of Freedom Scholars includes:

  • Alisa Bierria, Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside. Bierria is developing the manuscript “Missing in Action: Agency, Race, & Invention.”
  • Ananya Roy, Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography; Founding Director, UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy; and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Barbara Ransby, John D. MacArthur Chair and Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Black Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies and History, University of Illinois at Chicago, and director of the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative.
  • Charlene Carruthers, political strategist, cultural worker and PhD student, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University, and author of “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.”
  • Darrick Hamilton, University Professor, Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy and Founding Director, Institute for the Study of Race, Stratification and Political Economy at The New School.
  • Dylan Rodríguez, Professor, University of California, Riverside, and author of the upcoming book “White Reconstruction: Domestic Warfare and the Logic of Racial Genocide.”
  • Erica Kohl-Arenas,  Associate Professor in American Studies, University of California, Davis, Faculty Director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and author of “The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty.”
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University, and author of the book “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.”
  • Megan Ming Francis, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Washington, and author of the book “Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State.”
  • Nick Estes, Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico, citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, and author of the book “Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.”
  • Ramzi Kassem, Professor of Law, City University of New York, and founding director of the CLEAR Project.
  • Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University, and author of the book “Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code.”

About Marguerite Casey Foundation

Marguerite Casey Foundation supports leaders who work to shift the balance of power in their communities toward working people and families, and who have the vision and capacity for building a truly representative economy. Marguerite Casey Foundation is committed to giving people and communities the power and resources to change the world.

For more information, please visit Connect with Marguerite Casey Foundation on Twitter and Facebook.

About Group Health Foundation 

Group Health Foundation shapes and accelerates efforts to improve health equity and advance community aspirations for a vibrant, healthy future in Washington. For more information, please visit

Latest Posts

Back to Recent News