Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information


Pen Name: 

Genre: C:ADULT Poetry

Born: June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas


Illinois Connection

Brooks moved to Chicago with her family when she was six months old and lived there the rest of her life.

Biographical and Professional Information

Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet, novelist, children's fiction and lecturer. She began writing poetry at seven years of age and had her first poem published in a magazine when she was 13. After college, Brooks worked 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, in 1950, was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize. It was for her book ''Annie Allen''. In all, she was the author of more than twenty books of poetry and was named the Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 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. Brooks had a lifelong commitment to sharing poetry and teaching writing. She taught around the country and held posts at the University of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, City College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Along with her published works listed below, Brooks also edited two books - A Broadside Treasury and Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology. She also contributed to several anthologies including - A Portion of That Field: The Centennial of the Burial of Lincoln - written with Otto Kerner, Allan Nevins, Paul M. Angle, Mark Van Doren, Paul H. Douglas, Bruce Catton and Adlai E. Stevenson.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library


-- '''''Annie Allen''''' -- *Pulitzer Prize, 1950


-- '''''In the Mecca''''' -- *Finalist, National Book Award in Poetry, 1969


-- """Other Awards and Honors"""

-- *Appointed, Poet Laureate of Illinois, 1968 - 2000

-- *Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, 1969

-- *Honorary Consultant in American letters to the Library of Congress, 1973

-- *American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1976

-- *Shelley Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 1976

-- *Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, 1985

-- *National Women's Hall of Fame, 1988

-- *Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement, Poetry Society of America, 1989

-- *Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, National Book Foundation, 1994

-- *National Medal of the Arts, 1995

-- *Order of Lincoln, State of Illinois, 1997

-- *Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement, Academy of American Poets, 1999

-- *Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010