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Gwendolyn Brooks

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, on June 7, 1917, and raised in Chicago. Her mother recognized Gwendolyn's talent for writing when she was all of seven years old, and began encouraging that talent by exposing her to various forms of literature. She attended the local schools before entering Wilson Junior College, from which she graduated in 1936. She married Henry Blakely in 1939, with whom she had two children.

Brooks' poetry first appeared in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper written primarily for the black community of Chicago, and her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. In 1950, she became the first African-American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Annie Allen (1949), a loosely-connected series of poems related to a black girl's growing up in Chicago. Other books of poetry authored by Brooks include: The Bean Eaters (1960), Selected Poems (1963), The Wall (1967), In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969), The Near-Johannesburg Riot and Other Poems (1986), To Disembark (1981), Blacks (1987), and Children Coming Home (1991). Her books of children's poetry include Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956) and We Real Cool (1966).

Prose works by Brooks include: Maud Martha (1953), Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972), A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing (1975), Primer for Blacks (1981), Young Poet's Primer (1981), and Very Young Poets (1983).

In 1968, Brooks was named Poet Laureate for the State of Illinois, and from 1985 to 1986 she was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. In 1976, she became the first black to receive an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

Other honors and awards received by Brooks include:
the Frost Medal
a National Endowment for the Arts award
the Shelley Memorial Award
two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation
a fellowship from The Academy of American Poets

Gwendolyn Brooks died in Chicago on December 3, 2000.

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The Robinson Library >> American Literature >> 1900-1960

This page was last updated on 07/04/2018.