UW News

September 15, 2020

UW political scientist Megan Ming Francis named one of 12 grant-supported ‘Freedom Scholars’ for work on economic and social equity

Megan Ming Francis, University of Washington associate professor of political science, has been named one of 12 grant-supported “Freedom Scholars” in a new $3 million initiative by the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation, working together.

Megan Ming Francis, uw associate professor of political science, was named one of 12 Freedom Scholars

Megan Ming Francis

The two foundations announced the inaugural cohort of Freedom Scholars Sept. 15. The 12 were chosen from among scholars at the forefront of movements for social justice. Each will receive $250,000 over two years.

“The Freedom Scholars are leading abolitionist, Black, feminist, queer, radical and anti-colonial studies, critical fields of research that are often underfunded or ignored,” the foundations said in the announcement.

The foundations teamed to create the awards “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.”

Francis studies American politics, criminal punishment, Black political activism, racial justice philanthropy and the post-Civil War South. Her 2014 book “Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State” was the winner of the 2015 Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. She also is editing a new book series on race, ethnicity and politics for Cambridge University Press.

Francis said she was “thrilled and humbled” by the Freedom Scholars support.

“This grant will allow me to expand the organizing work I do with incarcerated populations and will provide necessary seed funding to launch another project focused on detailing what wealthy institutions owe to communities of color,” she said. “I am committed to conducting research on past injustices and linking that information to public conversations, movement building, and policy proposals centered on repair.”

The Marguerite Casey Foundation seeks to help low-income families and communities. Carmen Rojas, CEO and president, said, “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.” Calling support for such work “pivotal,” Rojas added: “With Freedom Scholars, we seek to honor the long arc of freedom organized by leaders in our institutions of higher education.”

The Group Health Foundation works to improve health equity. CEO Nichole Maher said, “Grantees have repeatedly told us they are tired of fighting for access to systems and structures that were not created for them. 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.”

Other Freedom Scholars announced by the foundations are faculty members at the University of Illinois, the University of Mexico, Northwestern University, Princeton University, City University of New York, the New School and the University of California at Riverside, Los Angeles and Davis.