Mississippi has high rate of 'genius grant' winners in South

For all intents and purposes, the 21 people who received MacArthur Foundation grants on Wednesday are geniuses.

The media termed the annual awarding of no-strings-attached $625,000 to creative, innovative and self-motivated people “genius grants” when it began in 1981. But the foundation maintains the term is both “too broad and too narrow,” as the fellowship program takes into account more than just academic and creative achievements.

But where do geniuses come from?

The Foundation released data this month on where grant winners are born and where they end up.

Not surprisingly they are a highly mobile population. Of the 701 Americans who have been named Fellows, 79 percent lived outside the state where they were born at the time of the award.

This prompted the foundation to seek an answer to the question, “do highly creative people move more than others, or does moving make people more creative?”

Naturally, Mississippi bucks this trend as one of only a few states where grant winners were born and remained at the time of the award. also analyzed the number of grant winners per capita in each state and Mississippi had one of the highest rates in the South.

The Magnolia State has seen six grant winners, they are:Jerry Mitchell

Unita Blackwell

Aaron Shirley

Marian Wright Edelman

Robert Parris Moses

Alvin Bronstein