Dr. Jonathan Kidd addresses the class of 2024 via video at graduation.

Thanks to a $50,000 gift from U-M alumnus Dr. Jonathan I. Kidd ('97), the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) in U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has established a new annual prize for fourth-year undergraduate students. 

Dr. Jonathan Kidd is a playwright, documentarian and television writer (he is a writer and co-executive producer of the HBO series “Lovecraft Country”). A DAAS Afroamerican and African studies major himself, Kidd worked with the department to create the Dr. Jonathan I. Kidd Senior Prize for DAAS majors and minors who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, academic excellence and serious engagement with issues related to the African diaspora. One $1,000 prize will be awarded annually, and student submissions are encouraged in a wide variety of formats such as senior theses, essays, documentaries, podcasts, digital repositories, archives, oral history projects, public-facing work and community service projects. Submissions are reviewed by a panel of DAAS faculty members. 

At DAAS’ commencement ceremony on May 3, the inaugural Dr. Jonathan I. Kidd Senior Prize was awarded to Jackson Kanawha Perry for his original piano composition titled “Crossing: A Contemporary Piano Interpretation of Negro Spirituals.”  

Perry wrote in the accompanying personal statement, “Exploring the intersection of art and Black culture has been my mission at the University of Michigan. ‘Crossing’ is an original composition tributed to my ancestors and the legacy of art as a means of change and transformation.” 

Kidd addressed the DAAS class of 2024 via video as the graduation keynote speaker and explained his motivation for endowing the prize.  

“I wanted to honor contemporary difference-makers, those who believe in creating ripples that turn into waves,” he said. “They make differences around the world that we’ll never see. Or they make differences in future generations that we’ll never see. There’s so much beauty in that.” 

Kidd credits his career success to his pedagogical foundation as an Afroamerican and African studies and English major at U-M, and later as a doctoral graduate in African American studies and English at Yale University. While at U-M, Kidd was a Walter Rodney Essay Competition winner. 

“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Kidd for his generous gift and for giving us the ability to offer such an enriching new opportunity to our students,” said Bénédicte Boisseron, DAAS chair and professor of Afroamerican and African studies, comparative literature and Romance languages and literatures. “This prize will not only inspire more students to elevate their intellectual pursuits but also serve as a testament to our supportive and connected alumni, like Dr. Kidd.” 

The department will award its second annual Dr. Jonathan I. Kidd Senior Prize in 2025; the call for submissions will be posted to the department website during the winter semester.

See a video of Jackson's piano composition here

Jackson Perry accepts the first Dr. Jonathan I. Kidd Senior Prize at graduation 2024.