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Photo by Don J. Usner

Elizabeth Alexander

Photo by Don J. Usner

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is the author of the acclaimed memoir The Light of the World, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 2015; the poetry collection American Sublime, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2006; and author or co-author of fourteen other books. 

Dr. Alexander composed and delivered the poem “Praise Song for the Day” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. She has been contributing to ongoing conversations about race, immigration, and social justice throughout her career, and has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University, where she taught for 15 years and chaired the African American Studies Department. She is Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and co-designed the Art for Justice Fund.

In 2007, Dr. Alexander was the first recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize. Her other honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the first Alphonse Fletcher St. Fellowship.