Elizabeth Alexander Biography


Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, New York, but was raised in Washington, D.C., as her father, Clifford Alexander, Jr., served as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the late 1960’s and as the first African American secretary of the Army during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Alexander earned a B.A. from Yale University (1984), an M.A. from Boston University (1987), and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1992).

Alexander began her career as a reporter for the Washington Post, but she made the transition to teaching after completing her education. She has taught at a number of prestigious schools, including Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2000, she joined the faculty at Yale University, where she became the chair of the African American studies department in 2009. In addition to teaching African American studies, Alexander has taught courses in English and gender studies.


(Poetry for Students)

Elizabeth Alexander was born on May 30, 1962, in New York City and grew up in Washington, D.C. She is the daughter of Clifford Leopold Alexander, a business consultant, and Adele Logan Alexander, a historian and writer. Alexander received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1984. She went on to receive her master’s degree from Boston University in 1987 and her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992.

Though destined to become a poet and university professor, Alexander began her professional life with a one-year stint as a reporter for the Washington Post. During the last four years of the 1980s, she taught at several schools both in Philadelphia and Boston. For the academic year 1990–1991, Alexander was scholar-in-residence at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania. From 1991 to 1997, she was a reviewer for the Village Voice and assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. After that, Alexander was the Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a lecturer in African American Studies and English at Yale University. As of the early 2000s, Alexander has been an adjunct associate professor of African American Studies at Yale, teaching in the Cave Canem Poetry Workshop.

By 2001, Alexander had published three books of poetry: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), and Antebellum Dream Book (2001), which...

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