September, 2020

Today, we welcome 10 Class of 2021 National Fellows to New America. This class of National Fellows includes writers, a filmmaker, and scholars who are dedicated to enhancing conversations around the most pressing issues of our time.

Meet the the Class of 2021 and follow them on Twitter here.

September serves as both an inflection and reflection point as we look forward to supporting the professional journey of our new class (featured throughout this issue of the Fifth Draft) while also pausing to reflect on the impact made by last year’s class.

Since last September, the Class of 2020 has had a remarkable year. They published and produced work that will shape our understanding of a number of issues including the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, government surveillance, and more. Take a moment to review highlights from the Class of 2020 here.

Awista Ayub
Director, Fellows Program

Three questions with...
2021 Fellow Adam Harris

Your Fellows project is a book, The State Must Provide, about racial inequality in higher education. Can you tell us about the origins of this project and how you decided on the title?

Back in late 2017, I began working on a story about the historically black colleges in Mississippi. I had been covering federal higher education policy for the Chronicle and I had learned that there were still six states that had not proven to the federal government that they had desegregated their higher education systems. Mississippi, despite some jarring statistics, was not one of them. That story led me to the Ayers case, one of the most underexplored, though important, civil rights cases which defines what it means for a state to have eliminated the vestiges of segregation in its colleges. Digging through the Ayers case made me wonder how deep the roots of America’s unequal higher education system ran, which led me to my current book project.

The title comes from the opinion in one of the landmark cases that was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education: Sipuel v. Board of Regents (1948). “The State must provide such education for her in conformity with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the ruling said. “And provide it as soon as it does for applicants of any other group.”

How did you find your path to becoming a journalist, and specifically to reporting on education?

I studied philosophy in college and thought—for a long time—that I would get my PhD and become a professor. But in 2013, I moved to Austin along with my now-wife and started freelance writing. I did not have much success early on. I had written for the school paper at Alabama A&M, but that was the extent of my formal journalism training. My writing was raw. To supplement my writing, I began substitute teaching, coaching basketball, and opened a digital marketing firm.

After about two years, my writing became my most central passion. I applied for jobs across the country, ultimately landing one as the social editor at ProPublica in New York. A year later, when I realized I wanted to be reporting more, I applied for an open position at the Chronicle of Higher Education. I had already had an interest in education, but this seemed like a great opportunity to go deeper. I jumped at it.

What advice do you have for young journalists, especially when it comes to navigating the media landscape in the time of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement?

The best advice I ever received was to find a network of peers. Mentors are great—and my mentors have been incredibly helpful to me throughout my career—but I’ve often found that the people around my age, the cohort of young journalists I cut my teeth alongside, have been most useful for bouncing ideas off of and helping me stay grounded.

Two Cents

Fellows from the Class of 2021 on why they applied for a New America Fellowship

1: I was inspired by the work of so many friends and colleagues who have been Fellows across multiple areas of work, from Josie Duffy Rice to Sarah J. Jackson to Reuben Miller. — Eve L. Ewing

2: A wonderful documentary filmmaker I know, Assia Boundaoui, told me it was a great fellowship. — Cecilia Aldarondo

3: Many of the writers I admire most were and are New America fellows, and as a reader I've always felt like a beneficiary of the work they were able to do as a result of their fellowships. A big part of what drove me to apply was the prospect of taking part in this community of writers, artists, thinkers, and scholars who are wrestling with some of the most pressing issues of our times. I can't think of better company to keep while at work on a book of my own. — Jonathan Blitzer

4: Again and again, I would encounter books and documentaries that I admired, and that brought together new ideas with powerful narratives—from Hao Wu’s documentary People’s Republic of Desire to Joshua Yaffa’s Between Two Fires—and discover that they had been written or directed by New America Fellows. I wanted to be part of and contribute to a community that allowed this to happen. — Yi-Ling Liu

5: Writing a book can be an isolating experience, so the support and intellectual camaraderie of a New America Fellowship was incredibly appealing. — Brian Goldstone

6: Over the past year, I have collaborated with both Future Tense and New America's cybersecurity program, and have been uniformly impressed by the brilliance, thoughtfulness, and creativity of everyone I met. Applying for the fellowship was such an obvious choice—and I am so thrilled and incredibly honored to have received one. — Jennifer Daskal

Two Cents

Nomadland, a new film based on Jessica Bruder’s book of the same name, won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival.

Cecilia Aldarondo's documentary film Landfall won the Florida Film Festival's grand jury award for Best Documentary Feature.

Eve L. Ewing wrote about police unions, and Josie Duffy Rice wrote about police abolition in Vanity Fair's special September issue edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Yi-Ling Liu wrote an article for WIRED about GitHub as a refuge from censorship in China during the coronavirus pandemic.

Josie Duffy Rice was named to Fortune's 40 Under 40 list in Government and Politics.

Sheri Fink's book Five Days at Memorial will be adapted for a limited series by Apple TV+, which Fink will executive produce.

Sara Hendren's new book What Can A Body Do? was included on the New York Times's list of New & Noteworthy books for the week of August 11. Her book was also reviewed by the New Yorker and excerpted in the Guardian.

Molly Crabapple animated the short film A Message From the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which was nominated for an Emmy award in the category of Outstanding News Analysis: Editorial and Opinion.

Katie Engelhart wrote for the California Sunday Magazine about the first COVID-19 hotspot in the U.S.

Go To This

The top 3 New America online events we recommend you check out. Now.


Sept. 17th

Displaced in Forsyth County

Join FPR and its partners for a discussion on economic mobility, poverty, and home loss in Forsyth County, North Carolina. Learn More

Sept. 18th

Launching a #DigitalDecade to Strengthen Public Institutions

Join New America for a landmark discussion that will launch a Decade of Digital Public Goods for Effective Institutions. Learn More

Sept. 18th

Power, Policing, & Tech

Join Future Tense and the TLS Program at American University to address the role that technology can play in the pursuit of police reform. Learn More

Reading this month

Marshall poetically guides the reader to explore and ask the most critical questions of identity.

— Caleb J. Gayle,
Class of 2021

Learn More

Dostoevsky's novel has lots to say about the subject I'm immersed in—the science of the brain and the spirit of the mind.

— Daniel Bergner,
Class of 2021

Learn More

This is one of the most comprehensive books covering poverty and the law I've ever encountered.

— Shaun Ossei-Owusu,
Class of 2021

Learn More

footer logo


We are storytellers who generate big, bold ideas that have an impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.

The three who put this together

Sarah Baline + Sophie Nunnally + Awista Ayub

Join the Conversation

Subscribe to this newsletter

Thoughts or questions?

Privacy Policy|Email designed by Iced Coffee Please

You are receiving this email because you signed up to receive newsletters from New America. Click to update your subscription preferences or unsubscribe from all New America newsletters.