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This interview with Elizabeth Alexander comprises part of The 1701 Project, a venture led by The Yale Historical Review.
Dr. Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, cultural advocate, and mother. After growing up in D.C., Alexander came to Yale as an undergraduate. Alexander then received
an MFA from Boston University and her PhD from University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student, Alexander published The Venus Hottentot, her first collection of poetry. Since then, she has authored or co-authored thirteen books. Dr. Alexander is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, and recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize. She delivered her poem “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. Dr. Alexander teaches as well as publishes. She has held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Columbia University, and Yale University. Upon returning to New Haven, Dr. Alexander was a faculty member in rebuilt and chaired Yale’s African American Studies Department for over 15 years. As the current President of the Mellon Foundation, Dr. Alexander has shifted the organization towards social justice through initiatives such as the Million Books Project. In this scintillating conversation, the brilliant Dr. Alexander outlines her intellectual development as well as her hopes for the Trayvon Generation.