Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was an American poet and writer who is considered one of the most significant figures in 20th-century American poetry. She was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 for her book of poetry “Annie Allen.”
Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas, but her family moved to Chicago’s South Side when she was young. She began writing poetry as a child, and her mother encouraged her by giving her a typewriter. She attended Wilson Junior College in Chicago but dropped out before earning a degree to pursue her writing career.
Her first collection of poetry, “A Street in Bronzeville,” was published in 1945 and was well-received by both critics and the public. The collection explored the lives of Black people in Chicago’s South Side and received praise for its unique perspective and strong voice.
Brooks continued to write poetry throughout her career, exploring themes such as racial inequality, poverty, and the experiences of Black people in America. In 1967, she published “In the Mecca,” a collection of poems that focused on the lives of the residents of a public housing project in Chicago.
In addition to her poetry, Brooks was also a prolific writer of prose. Her first novel, “Maud Martha,” was published in 1953 and was a semi-autobiographical account of a young Black woman growing up in Chicago. She also wrote several children’s books and a memoir, “Report from Part One,” which was published in 1972. Brooks received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the National Medal of Arts in 1995. She was also appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position she held until 2000.
Brooks died on December 3, 2000, in Chicago at the age of 83. Her legacy lives on through her poetry and writing, which continues to inspire and influence generations of writers and readers.