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Acclaimed Poet, Author, and Social Justice Arts Advocate Elizabeth Alexander made history when she composed and delivered her poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, making her only one of five poets to have his or her work elevated by the honor. But according to Publisher’s Weekly, Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems will “cement Alexander’s status as much more than the inaugural poet.”
Until 2017 Alexander served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, a role in which she directed and guided grant-making in the arts, media and culture. In her two years at Ford, Alexander worked to blend the expertise of grant making teams from different disciplines into a coherent effort to challenge inequality. Elizabeth created a global strategy, using the lens of African diaspora, to link cultural work that disrupts race-based inequality. Some of her initiatives include Art for Change and Art for Justice.
Her New York Times bestselling memoir and Pulitzer finalist, The Light of the World, tells the story of Alexander’s idyllic marriage and the unbearable grief she faced after the sudden death of her husband, an ordeal she discussed with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in “Love, Loss and What Comes Next.” First Lady Michelle Obama named it her favorite book of 2015 and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote, “This beautiful and sensitively told true love story will stay with me forever.”
She is the author of six books of poetry, including American Sublime, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, two collections of essays, including The Black Interior, and the acclaimed essay “‘Can You Be BLACK and Look at This’: Reading the Rodney King Video(s).” Her writings explore such subjects as race, gender, politics, art, and history.
Alexander is the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and former Chair of Yale University’s Department of African American Studies. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the first Alphonse Fletcher St. Fellowship, and was appointed to the Pulitzer Prize Board.
Alexander chaired the National Book Awards for poetry and delivered Princeton University’s Toni Morrison Lectures. She has interviewed Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Madonna, and Michelle Obama. Alexander frequently writes on pop culture – particularly focusing on artists engaged in social justice, philanthropy, and global thinking. A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Alexander was featured on the PBS 4-part series, Faces of America, and has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, The Colbert Report, and PBS NewsHour.