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About Gwendolyn Brooks 


Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, for Annie Allen, making her the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize.


Brooks was born to David and Keziah (Wims) Brooks in Topeka, Kansas, but lived in Chicago, Illinois, since she was a few weeks old. Brooks was a graduate of Chicago’s Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College) but, over time, has been awarded over 70 honorary degrees from various institutions. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), City Colleges of New York, Columbia College of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Chicago, State University.

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In 1939, Brooks married Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr. (author of  "Windy Place"),  whom she met after joining Chicago's NAACP Youth Council. author of  "Windy Place" They had two children: Nora Brooks Blakely, president of Brooks Permissions in Chicago, and Henry Blakely III, a web designer & digital artist. 

In 1968, she was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois, (succeeding the first Poet Laureate, Carl Sandburg) a position she held until her death.  In 1988 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She has published many books, including poetry for adults and children, one novel, writing manuals, and two volumes of autobiography.


In 1985, she became the 29th and final appointment as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the year before the position was renamed the United States Poet Laureate. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Honors Include:

  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant, 1946

  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1946 & 1947

  • Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 1950

  • Thormod Monsen Award (from Chicago’s “Poetry”), 1964

  • Ferguson Memorial Award, 1964

  • Poet Laureate of Illinois, 1968

  • Anisfield-Wolf Award, 1968

  • Black Academy Award, 1971

  • Shelley Memorial Award, 1976

  • Frost Medal, Poetry Society of America, 1988

  • National Endowment for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, 1989

  • Nat’l Endowment For The Humanities Jefferson Lecturer, 1991 & 1994

  • Aiken-Taylor Award, 1992

  • National Book Foundation Medal, 1994

  • National Medal of Arts, 1995 (from the President)

  • Academy of Americn Poets 65th Fellowship, 2000

  • Living Legend-Library of Congress Medal, 2000


Other honors include: the Kuumba Liberation Award, a National Book Award nomination for “In the Mecca,” as well as being the only American to receive the Society For Literature Award from the University of Tessaloniki in Athens, Greece (1990).


Numerous Illinois Institutions have named schools, libraries, and spaces in her honor including: 


  • Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy - Chicago IL

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Park - Kenwood, Chicago 

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Junior High School - Harvey, IL,

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School - Aurora, IL.

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School - DeKalb, IL

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center - Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL

  • Edward Jenner School's Gwendolyn Brooks auditorium - Cabrini Green, Chicago

  • Illinois State Library in Springfield, IL renamed the Gwendolyn Brooks Illinois State Library

Gwendolyn Brooks died at her Chicago home on December 3, 2000, at the age of 83, leaving the world with a vast number of illustrious works counted in a bibliography of epic proportions: 


  • A Street in Bronzeville, 1945

  • Annie Allen, 1949

  • Bronzeville Boys and Girls, 1956

  • The Bean Eaters, 1960

  • Selected Poems, 1963

  • In the Mecca, 1968

  • Riot, 1969

  • Family Pictures, 1970

  • Aloneness, 1971

  • Beckonings, 1975

  • To Disembark, 1981

  • The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems, 1986 

  • Blacks, 1987

  • Winnie, 1988

  • Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantelle, 1988

  • Children Coming Home, 1991


  • Maud Martha, 1953

  • The World of Gwendolyn Brooks, 1971 

  • A Broadside Treasury (Editor), 1971

  • Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology (Editor), 1971

  • Report from Part One, 1972

  • The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, 1974

  • A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing (with Don L. Lee,

  • Keorapetse Kgositsile and Dudley Randall), 1975

  • Primer for Blacks, 1980

  • Young Poets’ Primer, 1981

  • Very Young Poets, 1983

  • Report from Part Two, 1995

  • In Montgomery and other poems, 2003 (posthumously)

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