The life and speeches of Sadie Alexander

Friday, November 17, 2017
The Financial Times

This week’s episode covers the life and speeches of Sadie Alexander, the first African American economist. She received her PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921, and earned a law degree from the same university a few years later — making her, at the time, one of the best-educated people on the planet. But this was America in the 1920s, and nobody would hire her.

Although she never worked as a professional or academic economist, she never lost her interest in economics and continued to give speeches about the American economy throughout her life. Her speeches covered, very presciently, a number of issues that are the subjects of intense economic debate to this very day, including gender and racial inequalities, the importance of a labour market at full employment, whether the federal government should guarantee jobs for everyone, the economic impact of migration, minimum wages and unions.

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