December 6, 2021

Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation Award $1.5 Million to 2021 Freedom Scholars

Six ground-breaking research scholars will each receive $250,000 to advance their work in service of justice, freedom, and social change

SEATTLE — Today, Marguerite Casey Foundation (MCF) and Group Health Foundation (GHF) are announcing the recipients of the $1.5 million Freedom Scholars Awards for 2021, which will support six leading thinkers and scholars whose work can help transform our economy and our society for the better.   

The Freedom Scholars are leading research in critical fields including abolitionist, Black, feminist, queer, radical, and anti-colonialist studies. The annual award, established in 2020, 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 utilize as they see fit. 

“These scholars’ bold ideas and visionary leadership are critical to the modern liberation movements that our society desperately needs,” said Dr. Carmen Rojas, President and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. “Universities today are functioning more and more like corporations, and too many scholars working at the frontier of their fields do not have true academic freedom if they do not have greater financial freedom – specifically, the freedom to pursue the work that scholars know will be most useful for the greatest possible good.” 

MCF and GHF partnered to recognize scholars who provide critical data, analysis, and ideas to movements working to shift the balance of power in society.  

“Freedom Scholars are leaders and thinkers who materialize huge ideas that deserve national recognition and concrete financial support,” said Nichole June Maher, CEO of the Group Health Foundation. “We fully believe in the reimagined future that movements for justice are working for. We are honored to fund these scholars whose work supports and illuminates a path forward. 

The 2021 cohort of Freedom Scholars includes:

  • Amna Akbar: Associate Professor of Law, Moritz College of Law, 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, The University of Chicago, and author of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics.”
  • Lorgia García Peña: Mellon Associate Professor, Department 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 in the Department of Anthropology, American University. Burton is developing the manuscript, “Tip of the Spear: Black Revolutionary Organizing and Prison Pacification in the Empire State.”
  • Robin D. G. Kelley: Professor of History and African American Studies and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair of U.S. History, University of California Los Angeles, and author of “Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.”

The Freedom Scholars awards program is now in its second year. The inaugural 2020 Freedom Scholars cohort included Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Darrick Hamilton, Charlene Carruthers,  nine other scholars, both well-established and up-and-coming. Past Freedom Scholars have utilized their award in a variety of ways –  from writing books and articles, to resourcing organizations at the frontline of movement work, to creating a fellowship for young activists to convene and envision the future that movements are fighting for.

Learn more about the Freedom Scholars’ work at:  

About Marguerite Casey Foundation

Marguerite Casey Foundation supports leaders, scholars and initiatives focused on shifting the balance of power in society — building power for communities that continue to be excluded from shaping how society works and from sharing in its rewards and freedoms.

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

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