Acclaimed poet, author and professor Elizabeth Alexander has been elected to the Pulitzer Prize board.
Alexander wrote and delivered her poem “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry American Sublime and a 2016 Pulitzer finalist for her memoir, The Light of the World, according to the announcement on the Pulitzer website.
Alexander has taught at several schools, including the University of Chicago, New York University and Smith College, and was part of the faculty at Yale University for 15 years; she also served as chair of Yale’s department of African-American studies. Alexander was recently named the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and is the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation.
As a member of the 19-person board, Alexander will help decide the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes in in journalism, books, drama and music each April. She will serve a three-year term on the Pulitzer Prize board, on which members serve a maximum of nine years.
Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced. Awards are given out in six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Five finalists are chosen in each category. The winners will be announced on March 17 at a ceremony at the New School in New York City.
Several of the finalists are African Americans who have ties to the academic world:
Elizabeth Alexander is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University. Professor Alexander has been a member of the faculty at Yale since 2000. She previously taught at the University of Chicago. Professor Alexander is the author of six collections of poetry. She is being honored in the autobiography category for her book The Light of the World(Grand Central Publishing, 2015). Professor Alexander is a graduate of Yale University. She earned a master’s degree at Boston University and a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a finalist in the criticism category for his book Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). The book is a memoir of his life as a Black man in America. The book earlier won the National Book Award. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine. Coates has served as a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Management. Coates attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 2015, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Ross Gay teaches in the creative writing program at Indiana University and for the low-residency master of fine arts degree program in poetry at Drew University in New Jersey. He is a finalist in the poetry category for his collection Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Dr. Gay is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gay earned a master of fine arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and a Ph.D. in American literature from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Terrance Hayes was nominated in the poetry category for his collection How to Be Drawn (Penguin Books, 2015). Professor Hayes joined the English department faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. He previously taught at Xavier University of Louisiana and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. A graduate of Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, Professor Hayes earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2014, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Margo Jefferson is a professor of writing in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and a professor at the Eugene Lang College of The New School for Liberal Arts in New York. She is nominated in the autobiography category for Negroland (Pantheon, 2015). She won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism while writing for The New York Times. Professor Jefferson is a graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University.