Published on May 2, 2014
Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University 20th Anniversary Keynote address with Prof. Elizabeth Alexander. Columbia University's Faculty House, November 1, 2013
Elizabeth Alexander, Yale University Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania; M.A. from Boston University; B.A. degree from Yale;
Dr. Alexander was selected by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on January 20. She is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and American Sublime (2005), which was one of the American Library Association's 25 Notable Books of the Year as well as one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Her collection of essays on African American literature, painting, and popular culture, The Black Interior, was published in 2004. Her verse play, "Diva Studies," was produced at the Yale School of Drama in May 1996.
Alexander has taught at the University of Chicago, where she won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, New York University's Graduate Creative Writing Program, and Smith College, where she was Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence, first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and member of the founding editorial collective for the feminist journal Meridians. Professor Alexander is an inaugural recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that "contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954." She teaches courses on African American poetry, drama, and 20th century literature, as well as the survey introduction to African American Studies.