Rita Dove was born August 28, 1952, in Akron, Ohio. A very strong student and presidential scholar, Dove was one of the top one hundred high school students to graduate in 1970. She attended Miami University in Ohio on a national merit scholarship and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1973, receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study abroad shortly thereafter.
Although Dove published short stories, essays and novels during her career, she is known primarily as a poet, publishing an extensive assortment of verse from 1980 to 2009. In 1987, she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Thomas and Beulah, a largely autobiographical collection about her maternal grandparents. She is only the second African American to gain the honor, following Gwendolyn Brooks in 1950. Then, in 1993, Dove became the youngest elected Poet Laureate of the United States at the age of forty. During her tenure, she traveled extensively, deeply committed to both spreading the word of poetry and developing an appreciation for literature in general. Although her status as an African-American woman undoubtedly contributed to her work, her writing cannot be solely categorized as gender or race specific. Dove’s work is deeply historical and focuses on common experiences in a detailed way. Dove has taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville since 1989, and is currently Commonwealth Professor of English there.