Gwendolyn Brooks

Feb. 3, 2005, midnight | By Seema Kacker | 16 years, 4 months ago


Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, best known for writing about blacks in poverty, was born June 7, 1917 in Kansas. She began writing at the age of seven and died Dec. 3, 2000 in Chicago as a well-respected literary figure. As a child, Brooks was encouraged to pursue writing by her parents, who often read stories and sang songs to her and her brother. Brooks was often rejected by other black children because of her light skin and healthy hair so she took comfort in writing and reading alone. She published her first poem at age 13, and by age 16, she had published 75 more.

Brooks attended Wilson Junior College and graduated in 1936 with an English degree. She later became a weekly writer for the Chicago Defender and graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936. By the following year, her work had been published in two anthologies.

In 1937, Brooks was named publicity director of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council. Four years later, she began participating in poetry workshops at a community art center in Chicago, where she was able to encourage young writers.

In 1945, her first poetry book, "A Street in Bronzeville," received nation-wide attention, and Brooks subsequently earned a number of literary awards and titles. Brooks became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, won a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship and was selected as of the Madmoiselle magazine's "Ten Young Women of the Year." Brooks continued to publish a number of other poetry collections and novels and earned the first Pulitzer Prize ever to be given to a black writer. She was praised for her subtle use of irony, a voice that involved both informal dialect and classical language and her creation of the sonnet-ballad.

Around 1970, after attending the Fisk University Second Black Writers' Conference, Brooks began changing her style of writing. While she previously published verses that seemed to integrate black and white beliefs, Brooks began to write with a harsher, angrier tone. Some critics claim that she expressed intense opinions supporting black power and protesting.

In addition to continuing her own work, Brooks played an active role in encouraging young children to begin writing. In 1968, she established the Poet Laureate Awards competition for young writers in Illinois. In addition, she often visited schools and other educational institutions to promote young literary involvement.

Brooks continued writing up until her death in 2000. Today, she is widely remembered for her distinctive place in black literature.

Last updated: April 27, 2021, 12:57 p.m.

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Seema Kacker. Seema is a senior in the magnet this year, and is thrilled to be a part of the Online senior staff. She also plays tennis. More »

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