(Professor and Poet)
Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, professor and current chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. A graduate of Yale and Boston University, she holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2008, Dr. Alexander was selected to compose and read a poem at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is the author of five books of poems (including American Sublime, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and two collections of essays. Among her many honors, Alexander has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart prizes, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the inaugural Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society.”
Dr. Alexander was born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. Her paternal grandfather, Clifford Alexander, came to the U.S. from Kingston, Jamaica in 1918. Though family legend had it that Clifford traveled to New York City as a stowaway, Ellis Island records reveal that he paid his way as a first-class passenger before settling in Harlem. On her maternal side, Alexander’s lineage can be traced back an astounding 37 generations. Notable ancestors include 23rd great-grandmother Joan, Princess of England, 24th great-grandparents King John I of England and Clemence, Mistress of the King, and 37th great-grandfather Charlemagne, first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.