June 15, 2020
The Russell Sage Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of four visiting journalists for the 2020-2021 academic year: Clara Hemphill, Tracie McMillan, Melissa Segura, and Mosi Secret. Their journalistic work on a range of urgent issues in American life, including school segregation, as well as racism in social safety net policies and in the criminal justice system, intersects with the foundation’s support of scholarship that examines current social, economic, and political conditions.
Clara Hemphill is an independent journalist and the founding editor of insideschools.org, a free online guide to New York City public schools sponsored by Advocates for Children of New York. As an RSF visiting journalist, Hemphill will write a book that examines why school segregation is so persistent, even in racially integrated neighborhoods. Her research has included spending the 2019-2020 school year following an African American mother who is working to build a multiracial parent-teachers association at her son’s public elementary school in Bedford Stuyvesant, a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Hemphill’s fellowship will deepen her understanding of social science research on structural inequality, the roots of residential segregation, and the impact of gentrification and immigration on schools.
Hemphill is the author of New York City’s Best Public Elementary Schools: A Parent’s Guide and New York City’s Best Public Middle Schools: A Parents’ Guide. She was a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, a producer for CBS News in Rome, and a reporter and editorial writer for New York Newsday, where she shared the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Her columns and op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, and Newsday.
Tracie McMillan is an independent investigative journalist. While at the foundation, she will research and write The White Bonus, a work of investigative memoir and narrative journalism that uses social science to quantify the cash value of whiteness. Alternating between narratives of three generations of her white, working class family and single-chapter profiles of five other white Americans, her project links individual genealogies of wealth and opportunity to history, social science, and public policy. The book engages directly with research on social policy, as well as on social issues like mass incarceration, housing and educational segregation, public health, and labor; it documents how these policies affect the racial wealth gap, social mobility, public health disparities, and economic inequality.
McMillan has covered America’s multiracial working class since the late 1990s. Her book, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table (Scribner, 2012) was a New York Times bestseller. McMillan has written about food and equity for The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Harper’s, and Mother Jones. She won a James Beard Journalism Award and was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan, a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, and a Koeppel Journalism Fellow at Wesleyan University.
Melissa Segura is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Mexico. Segura will use her RSF fellowship to work on a book, Lady Justice, based on her Polk Award-winning series which detailed how a group of predominantly working class, Latina women from Chicago uncovered evidence suggesting a police detective framed at least 51 of their sons, brothers, or husbands. The series, “Broken Justice in Chicago,” led to the exoneration of nine men who had each spent decades behind bars. Using the women’s stories as a framework, Segura’s book examines how the criminal justice system discriminates in communities of color — from police closing cases by any means necessary, to prosecutors conflating convictions with justice, and an appeals process valuing the conclusiveness of a verdict over its certitude.
Segura’s reporting focuses on the intersection of justice, class, and race. In addition to earning the George Polk Award in Journalism for local reporting, Segura was a finalist for Harvard University’s Goldsmith Award. She has also been a staff writer for Sports Illustrated.
Mosi Secret is an independent journalist based in Brooklyn. While at the foundation, he will write a book, A Narrative History of the Desegregation of Southern Boarding Schools, 1967-1975, that examines the long-term outcomes of a social experiment. In the late 1960s, 140 talented black and brown boys and girls were recruited to integrate all-white, Southern boarding schools, to address the extent to which such integration might make white children less bigoted by exposing them to black scholarship students. For ten years, the Stouffer Foundation of Winston-Salem, N.C., led the effort, and attempted to fashion a social science study of the results. Secret’s project is a narrative history of this philanthropic experiment, tracing the arc of the participating students’ lives and examining the era’s promise of desegregation.
Secret covered a variety of beats for the metropolitan section of The New York Times before leaving daily journalism in 2016 to work independently on longform stories. He has been a reporter at the nonprofit investigative newsroom, ProPublica, and several alternative weekly newspapers. His work has won numerous local and national awards, including a 2015 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship and a 2018 Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at New America.