Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks)

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet and teacher. She was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950, for her second collection, Annie Allen. Throughout her career Brooks received many more honors. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position held until her death, and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas, and died on December 3, 2000 in Chicago, IL. She was the first child of David Anderson Brooks and Keziah (Wims) Brooks. Her mother was a school teacher and chose that field of work because she couldn’t afford to attend medical school. Family lore held that her paternal grandfather had escaped slavery to join the Union forces during the American Civil War. When Brooks was six weeks old, her family moved to Chicago during the Great Migration; from then on, Chicago remained her home. According to biographer Kenny Jackson Williams, Brooks first attended a leading white high school in the city, Hyde Park High School, transferred to the all-black Wendell Phillips, and then to the integrated Englewood High School. After completing high school, she graduated in 1936 from Wilson Junior College, now known as Kennedy-King College. Williams noted, “These four schools gave her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that continue[d] to influence her work.

Gwendolyn Brooks began writing at an early age and her mother encouraged her saying, ”You are going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar.” After these early educational experiences, Brooks never pursued a four-year degree because she knew she wanted to be a writer and considered it unnecessary. “I am not a scholar,” she later said. “I’m just a writer who loves to write and will always write.” She worked as a typist to support herself while she pursued her career.

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  • June, 07, 1917
  • USA
  • Topeka, Kansas


  • December, 12, 2000
  • USA
  • Chicago, Illinois

Cause of Death

  • cancer


  • Lincoln Cemetery
  • Blue Island, Illinois
  • USA

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