Celebrated on the Illinois State Library Gwendolyn Brooks Building
Illinois Poet Laureate - 1968-2000
Genre: Poetry, Fiction
Born: June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas
Died: December 3, 2000, aged 83, at her Southside Chicago home
Brooks family moved to Chicago when she was six months old and lived there the rest of her life. She attended three different high schools in Chicago - Hyde Park, Wendell Phillips and Englewood. In 1936, she graduated from the then new Woodrow Wilson Junior College - now named Kennedy-King College. Brooks taught at two Illinois institutions - Northeastern Illinois University and Elmhurst College.
Biographical and Professional Information
Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet, novelist, writer of juvenile fiction and lecturer. She began writing poetry at age seven and had her first poem published in a magazine at age 13. She went on to become the third Illinois Poet Laureate.
Brooks briefly wrote a neighborhood newsletter, and at 17 she started writing for a newspaper, the Chicago Defender. After college, Brooks worked at a variety of jobs until her marriage and the birth of her two children, but she continued to write poetry.
In 1945, her first of several books of poetry for adults was published to great praise. She won many honors and awards and was the first Black to win the Pulitzer Prize. She won it in 1949 for her book, Annie Allen. In 1968, Brooks was named the Poet Laureate of Illinois and served in that capacity until her death in 2000. She also served as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1985-86.
Her early poems, collected in A Street in Bronzeville (1945) and Selected Poems (1963), combine a realistic interest in the black experience in Chicago with a sophisticated, modernist style. Later works include Primer for Blacks (1980), Young Poet's Primer (1981) and To Disembark (1981). Brooks also is the author of a notable novel, Maud Martha (1953). Her last book, Report From Part Two, was published in 1998. In all, she was the author of more than twenty books of poetry.
Brooks' archive is located at the University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
- A Street in Bronzeville, Harper, 1945
- Annie Allen, 1949
- Maud Martha, 1953
- The Bean Eaters, 1960
- Selected Poems, 1963
- Annie Allen, 1968
- In the Mecca, 1968
- For Illinois 1968 A Sesquicentennial Poem, Harper, 1968
- Riot, 1969
- Report from Part One: An Autobiography, 1972
- Primer for Blacks, Black Position Press, 1980
- Young Poet's Primer, 1981
- To Disembark, Third World Press, 1981
- Black Love, Brooks Press, 1982
- Mayor Harold Washington and Chicago, The I Will City, Brooks Press, 1983
- The Near Johannesburg Boy, and Other Poems, David Co., 1986
- Blacks, 1987
- Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantella, David Co., 1988
- Winnie, Third World Press, 1988
- Children Coming Home, David Co., 1991
- Report From Part Two, 1998
Titles at Your Library
Street in Bronzeville
Release Date: 1900
Release Date: 1971-10
Release Date: 1992-10-01
Release Date: 1963-06
The Bean Eaters
Release Date: 2012-04-07
In the Mecca
Release Date: 1968-06
For Illinois, 1968;: A sesquicentennial poem
Release Date: 1968
Release Date: 1994-01-01
- Eunice Tietjens Prize, 1949
- Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1950
- Illinois Poet Laureate, 1968-2000
- Shelley Memorial Award, 1976
- Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 1978
- Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (Poet Laureate), 1985-1986
- Frost Medal, 1989
- Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990
- National Medal of the Arts, 1995
- Living Legend, Library of Congress, 2000
- Illinois State Library Building in Springfield was dedicated as the Gwendolyn Brooks Building, 2003
- Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010
She has also been the recipient of a number of other awards, fellowships and honorary degrees including but not limited to: American Academy of Arts and Letters award, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation.
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