Famous MidAtlantic Women: Lucille Clifton

Famous MidAtlantic Women: Lucille Clifton
"Clifton has added enormously to the representation of the African-American experience in poetry and has been a kind of historical consciousness for her people and a public consciousness for us all."

--Jury of the Ruth Lily Prize


Distinguished poet and children’s book author Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York on June 6, 1936. Among her many achievements is her receipt of the 2007 Ruth Lily Prize. She is the first African-American in history to have received the honor which celebrates the lifetime achievements of noteworthy American poets. In 1987 and 1980, Clifton was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes for her works Two-Headed Woman and Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980 respectively. She is also an Emmy Award winner from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

It is said that Clifton has always had a talent for writing. She spent two years at Howard University in Washington, DC from 1953 to 1955. In 1969, her first book of poems was rated best of the year by the New York Times. She would continue to work for federal and state government agencies, however, until 1971 to assume the position of Writer in Residence at Coppin State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Not long after in 1974, she became the poet laureate for the State of Maryland, and served in that role until 1985.

Today, Clifton is a distinguished professor of humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City.

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