The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced June 12 the names of this year's 24 fellows, who will receive grants ranging from $230,000 to $350,000.
Among the 1995 fellows are individuals in the fields of human rights, theater, history, journalism, music, fiction, and biology.
The largest 1995 grant, $350,000, went to Virginia Hamilton, a children's writer who weaves black folk tales into her work. An elaborately illustrated book Hamilton wrote, called "Herstory: African-American Folktales, True Tales and Fairytales," is scheduled for release this fall.
Ms. Hamilton says the recognition is especially important to her as a children's writer.
"Sometimes people will ask me, 'Do you think you'll ever write for adults?' '' she says. "You get the feeling that people think you're second-class because you write for children."
With 33 books published in 28 years, Hamilton says she doesn't need the money to support her work. She says she'll stash most of it as a nest egg and use some of it to help her two adult children with their music careers.
Sandy Close, a journalist and executive editor of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pacific News Service, was awarded $315,000. The Pacific News Service is known for nurturing young writers from diverse backgrounds.
Close said from her San Francisco office that the grant helps validate what the young writers are doing.
"We have a network of writers here who have chosen to be loners, writers who want to have their own voice and pursue what they're passionate about," she said.
Since 1981, the MacArthur Foundation, whose founder, John MacArthur, made his fortune in insurance, has given out more than $140 million to 458 fellows. The recipients are nominated by anonymous talent scouts and chosen on the basis of skill, creativity, and dedication.
The fellowships can range from $150,000 to $375,000 over five years, or $30,000 to $75,000 annually, depending on the recipient's age. All recipients are free to use the money for whatever they want.