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Brooks, Gwendolyn 1917—

Gwendolyn Brooks 1917

Poet, novelist

At a Glance

First Black to Win a Pulitzer Prize

Black Consciousness Influenced Poetry

Selected writings

Sources

A leading contemporary American poet and the first black writer to be honored with a Pulitzer Prize, Gwendolyn Brooks is acclaimed for her technically accomplished and powerful portraits of black urban life. Throughout a career that has spanned six decades and includes both poetry and fiction, the prolific Brooks is noted for her carefully wrought and insightful portraits of everyday black life, in which she illuminates racism, poverty, intraracial prejudice, and personal alienation. Brooks is also known as one of the most wide-ranging of contemporary black poets; while her earlier work is marked by social realism contained in masterful poetic form, technique, and language, her later efforts display a more open, free-verse style and are increasingly direct in exploring themes like social protest, revolution, and black nationalism. Brooks has been praised throughout her career for the complexity and technical skill of her work, which she combines with a compassion for the ordinary that speaks universally to many readers. She commented to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she would prefer not to be known as an intellectual, explaining: I do write from the heart, from personal experience and from the experiences of other people whom I have observed.

Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language can achieve. And I began playing with words. That word-play is what I have been known for chiefly.

Much of Brookss work is set in her native Chicago, where she has lived since she was an infant. Her path to becoming a writer started with her parents, who early on encouraged her in reading and writing. Her father, David, regularly told her stories and read aloud from his set of Harvard Classics, while her mother, Keziah, a schoolteacher, composed songs for her children and commissioned Brooks to write plays for the children of a church group she led. When Brookss parents discovered she had promising writing abilities, they relieved her of many household duties and her father set up a working desk for her. As a young girl Brooks read widely and especially admired L. M. Montgomerys Anne of Green Gables books, in addition to the poems of black writer Paul Laurence Dunbar. Fascinated with words, she would spend many hours composing rhymes and poems and record them in a notebook. Confident of her talent, her mother, as Brooks related in her 1972 autobiography, Report From Part One, assured her that one

At a Glance

Full name, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks; born June 7, 1917, in Topeka, KS; daughter of David Anderson (a janitor) and Keziah Corrine (a schoolteacher; maiden name, Wims) Brooks; married Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr., September 17, 1939; children: Henry Lowington III, Nora. Education: Graduated from Wilson Junior College, 1936.

Poet and novelist. Publicity director, NAACP Youth Council, Chicago, IL, 1937-38; poetry instructor at numerous colleges and universities c. 1963-69, including Elmhurst College, Northeastern Illinois State College, Columbia University, and the University of WisconsinMadison; poet laureate of Illinois, beginning 1968; distinguished professor of the arts, City Col lege of the City University of New York, 1971 ; poetry consultant to Library of Congress, 1985-86.

Awards: Midwestern Writers Conference poetry award, 1943; Patron Saints Award, Society of Midland Authors, 1945; named one often Women of the Year, Mademoiselle, 1945; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1946; American Academy of Arts and Letters creative writing award, 1946; Guggenheim fellowship, 1946 and 1947; Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, Poetry, 1949, and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 1950, both for Annie Allen; Robert F. Ferguson Memorial Award, Friends of Literature, 1964, for Selected Poems; Thormod Monsen Literature Award, 1964; Anisfield-Wolf Award, 1968, for In the Mecca; Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1971 ; Shelley Memorial Award, 1976; Essence Award, 1988; inductee, National Womens Hall of Fame, 1988; Frost Medal, Poetry Society of America, 1989; lifetime achievement award, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1989.

Addresses: Home 7428 South Evans Ave., Chicago, IL 60619.

day she would become the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Brooks published her first poem when she was 13 in a popular childrens magazine called American Childhood. When she was 16 she had the opportunity to meet James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, two of the most famous poets of the 1920s literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Brookss mother had prompted her to send samples of her work to Johnson and Hughes; they both assured her that she indeed possessed talent and urged her to continue writing and studying poetry. Johnson encouraged Brooks to study the Modernist poets T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and e. e. cummings, to, in his words, cultivate the highest possible standards of self-criticism. Johnson served, as Gary Smith noted in MELUS, as Brookss literary mentor, yet Hughes, with whom Brooks would later become great friends, was an even more profound influence. As Brooks described in Report From Part One, The words and deeds of Langston Hughes were rooted in kindness, and in pride. His point of departure was always a clear pride in his race. Mightily did he use the street. He found its multiple heart, its tastes, smells, alarms, formulas, flowers, garbage and convulsions. He brought them all to his table-top. He crushed them to a writing-paste. He himself became the pen. Smith commented that Hughes underscored the value of cultivating the ground upon which [Brooks] stood, and convinced her that a black poet need not travel outside the realm of his own experiences to create a poetic vision and write successful poetry.

While in high school Brooks focused heavily on her writing and study of poetry, and was a regular contributor of poems to the Defender, a black daily newspaper in Chicago. Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936 with a degree in English and went on to work for Chicagos NAACP Youth Council, where she met her future husband, himself an aspiring writer. In 1941 her writing received a boost when she enrolled in a workshop led by Inez Cunningham Stark, a wealthy writer and scholar who traveled to Chicagos predominantly black south side to instruct aspiring poets. Brooks drew much from the comments and criticism of her peers in the workshop and was introduced by Stark to a wealth of contemporary poetry. The poet wrote in Report From Part One that while Stark guided the group in the principles of poetry, their own voices were allowed to develop: If, in spite of everything that she could tell us, we stubbornly clung to our own ways and words, and we often so clung, she bowed gracefully and let us alone, trusting to time to further instruct us, or trusting to the possibility that she herself might be wrong. Throughout the early 1940s Brooks developed a substantial local reputation for her poetry, and, in 1943, received a poetry award from the Midwestern Writers Conference. Soon thereafter her work would gain national attention.

Around 1943 Brooks submitted a manuscript of Negro poems to Harper & Row, who published them in 1945 as A Street in Bronzeville. The poems received wide critical acclaim and Brooks was hailed as a major new voice in contemporary poetry. Drawn from scenes and characters in Brookss Chicago neighborhood, A Street in Bronzeville offers insight into the aspirations and struggles of ordinary black people. The first section of the book depicts life in the Bronzeville neighborhood, while the second sectiona sequence of twelve sonnets entitled Gay Chaps at the Barexplores prejudice against blacks serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Demonstrating a mastery of the sonnet, quatrain, and ballad, Brooks was praised for her high level of craft, innovative and distinctive use of idiom and imagery, and fresh glimpse into the lives of blacks. George E. Kent noted in Black World that Brookss first book revealed obsessions which would characterize all of her poetry. Brooks revealed in her first book considerable technical resources, a manipulation of folk forms, a growing sense of how traditional forms must be dealt with if the power of the Black voice is to come through with integrity. A Street in Bronzeville committed its author to a restless experimentation with an elaborate range of artistic approaches. William H. Hansell similarly noted in CLA Journal that A Street in Bronzeville demonstrated Brooks commitment to a concept of art which she has never surrendered: the artist must work with the materials most familiar to him, with his own milieu.

First Black to Win a Pulitzer Prize

Following the success of A Street in Bronzeville, Brooks received a Guggenheim fellowship and was named by Mademoiselle magazine as one of their Ten Women of the Year. Brooks received even greater honors with her next book of poetry, Annie Allen, which won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize, marking the first time the award had been bestowed upon a black writer. A complex sequence of poems that trace the coming-of-age of a black woman, Annie Allen is, according to Claudia Tate in A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction, a collection of rigorously technical poems, replete with lofty diction, intricate word play, and complicated concatenations of phrases. George Kent in Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation described the highly crafted poems as an attempt to give artistic structure to tensions arising from the artists experience in moving from the Edenic environment of her parents home into the fallen world of Chicago tenement life in the roles of young wife, mother, and artist. Regarding the centerpiece poem of the collection, The Anniad, Brooks said in an interview reprinted in Report From Part One that she was very interested in the mysteries and magic of technique and that she wanted every phrase to be beautiful, and yet to contribute sanely to the whole effect.

Established as a poet, Brooks next ventured to write her first and only novel, Maud Martha, which was published in 1953. Like Annie Allen the novel focuses on the life of a young black woman and, as with all of Brookss poetry, scrutinizes the ordinary and everyday to illuminate larger issues and themes. Patricia H. and Vernon E. Lattin in Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction noted that Mauds stage is the home in which she grew up, the schools she attended, the kitchenette where she lives after marriage, and most often her own mind and heart as she struggles to be creative and to be an individual in a gray, oppressive world. On a different scale than sweepingly dramatic black novels like Richard Wrights Native Son, Maud Martha has been largely overlooked, according to the Lattins: With a very loose organization consisting of a series of short vignettes, and with lyrical language never far from poetry, this short novel has a deceptively light and simple exterior which belies the complexity of the interior. David Littlejohn in Black on White: A Critical Survey of Writing by American Negroes, similarly called Maud Martha accomplished, a striking human experiment, as exquisitely written and as effective as any of Gwendolyn Brookss poetry.

In her 1960 book of poems, The Bean Eaters, Brooks continued to portray the immediate environment and ordinary people and events, noted Hansell. The book also, however, showed Brooks becoming more direct in her concern about black social issues. In The Bean Eaters Brooks writes about the integration of the Little Rock, Arkansas, school system, the lynching of blacks in the South, and the misguided efforts of cultured whites to help blacks. Due to its timing The Bean Eaters appeared just as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentumand political overtones, the book received mixed reviews. Maria K. Mootry reported in A Life Distilled that some reviewers found The Bean Eaters sufficient in content and form, while others found it too tame in its protest mission; still others were upset and put off by what they deemed an unseemly social emphasis.

Brookss thematic transition in The Bean Eaters was also reflected in a further evolution in her poetic style, which Kent described as a bolder movement into a free verse appropriate to the situation.

Black Consciousness Influenced Poetry

In 1967 Brooks attended a writers conference at Fisk University and became acquainted with a group of young writers, including John Killens, Ron Milner, and LeRoi Jones, who were advocating a new perspective for black authors. She commented to Tate on this new breed of black writers: They seemed proud and so committed to their own people. The poets among them felt that black poets should write as blacks, about blacks, and address themselves to blacks. Their message took hold of Brooks and profoundly influenced the direction of her poetry. Beginning with her 1968 book of poetry, In the Mecca, Brooks displayed what Toni Cade Bambara called in the New York Times Book Review a new movement and energy, intensity, richness, power of statement and a new stripped lean, compressed style. The title poem of In the Mecca, set in an inner-city apartment building, traces a mothers search for her missing daughter among the tenants, only to discover in the end that the little girl has been murdered. The Virginia Quarterly Review called the poem both an impressionistic and naturalistic journey through a huge ghetto apartment house, through the black precincts of despair. R. Baxter Miller in Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960 deemed In the Mecca a most complex and intriguing book; it seeks to balance the sordid realities of urban life with an imaginative process of reconciliation and redemption. Other poems in the book treated contemporary black heroes Medgar Evans and Malcolm X; another was dedicated to the Rangers, a Chicago street gang. Frederick C. Stern in MidAmerica called the latter quite powerful, an appreciation for those outside the system, which comes quite close to being revolutionary.

In a move to support black publishers, Brooks left her longtime publisher Harper & Row after In the Mecca and chose to have her next several books published by Broadside Press, run by Detroit poet Dudley Randall. Riot (1969), Family Pictures (1970), and Beckonings (1975) further displayed Brookss evolution in theme and style. Most noticeably, Brooks began to discuss revolution, black power, and black nationalism and her style became almost totally free verse. Norris B. Clark in A Life Distilled noted a difference from her earlier work in that Brookss *emphasis shifted from a private, internal, and exclusive assessment of the identity crises of twentieth-century persons to a communal, external, and inclusive assessment of the black communal experience. Brooks described her change in focus to Tate: What Im fighting for now in my work, [is] for an expression relevant to all manner of blacks, poems I could take into a tavern, into the street, into the halls of a housing project. I dont want to say these poems have to be simple, but I want to clarify my language. I want these poems to be free. I want them to be direct without sacrificing the kinds of music, the picturemaking Ive always been interested in. Critics noted that Brooks was no less masterful in her craft in these later poems, and, as in her earlier work, still focused on the situations of individuals with compassion and understanding.

Kent in Black World summarized Brookss overall stature as a poet: Brooks shares with Langston Hughes the achievement of being most responsive to turbulent changes in the Black Communitys vision of itself and to the changing forms of its vibrations during decades of rapid change. The depth of her responsiveness and her range of poetic resources make her one of the most distinguished poets to appear in America during the 20th Century. Throughout her writing career Brooks has been noted for maintaining a level of objectivity which, however specific and direct her subject matter, gives her poetry a universal appeal. According to Blyden Jackson in Black Poetry in America: Two Essays in Historical Interpretation, Brooks offers the close inspection of a limited domain, a view of life in which one may see a microscopic portion of the universe intensely and yet, through that microscopic portion see all truth for the human condition wherever it is.

In addition to her own writing, Brooks is active in promoting and encouraging the work of other poets. In her native Illinois, where she was named poet laureate in 1968, Brooks has organized numerous poetry competitions, often offering prize money from her own funds. She has visited elementary schools, colleges, prisons, and drug rehabilitation centers, bringing people the art of poetry. In 1985, at the age of 68, she was appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, the first black woman to be named to the post. Among the many other honors she has received in her distinguished career, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for African-American Literature was established at Western Illinois University, and a junior high school in Harvey, Illinois, was named for her.

Selected writings

Poetry

A Street in Bronzeville, Harper, 1945.

Annie Allen, Harper, 1949.

Bronzeville Boys and Girls (juvenile), Harper, 1956.

The Bean Eaters, Harper, 1960.

Selected Poems, Harper, 1963.

In the Mecca, Harper, 1968.

Riot, Broadside Press, 1969.

Family Pictures, Broadside Press, 1970.

Aloneness, Broadside Press, 1971.

(Editor) A Broadside Treasury, Broadside Press, 1971.

(Editor) Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology, Broadside Press, 1971.

Aurora, Broadside Press, 1972.

The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves (juvenile), Third World Press, 1974.

Beckonings, Broadside Press, 1975.

Primer for Blacks, Black Position Press, 1980.

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, The David Co., 1987.

Other

Maud Martha (novel), Harper, 1953.

The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (contains A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen, Maud Martha, The Bean Eaters, and In the Mecca), Harper, 1971.

Report From Part One: An Autobiography, Broadside Press, 1972.

Young Poets Primer (writing manual), Brooks Press, 1981.

Very Young Poets (writing manual), Brooks Press, 1983.

Also author of short stories. Contributor to numerous anthologies. Contributor of poems, articles, and reviews to periodicals.

Sources

Books

Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, edited by Mari Evans, Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984.

Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors, Gale, 1989.

Brooks, Gwendolyn, Report From Part One: An Autobiography, Broadside Press, 1972.

Concise Dictionary of Literary Biography, 1941-1968, Gale, 1985.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 1, 1973; Volume 2, 1974; Volume 4, 1975; Volume 5, 1976; Volume 15, 1980; Volume 49, 1989.

Contemporary Poets, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1986.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets Since World War II, Gale, 1980.

Jackson, Blyden, and Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Black Poetry in America: Two Essays in Historical Interpretation, Louisiana State University Press, 1974.

Kent, George, Gwendolyn Brooks: A Life, University Press of Kentucky, 1988.

A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction, edited by Maria K. Mootry and Gary Smith, University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Littlejohn, David, Black on White: A Critical Survey of Writing by American Negroes, Viking, 1966.

Madhubuti, Haki R., Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks, Third World Press, 1987.

Melhem, D. H., Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice, University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

Miller, R. Baxter, Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960, University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

Shaw, Harry F., Gwendolyn Brooks, Twayne, 1980.

Tate, Claudia, Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum, 1983.

Periodicals

Black World, September 1971.

CLA Journal, March 1987.

Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, Summer 1984.

MELUS, Fall 1983.

MidAmerica, Volume 12, 1985.

New York Times Book Review, January 7, 1973.

Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter, 1969.

Michael E. Mueller

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"Brooks, Gwendolyn 1917—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks (born 1917) was the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and is best known for her intense poetic portraits of urban African Americans.

Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas. The eldest child of Keziah (Wims) Brooks, a schoolteacher, and David Anderson Brooks, a janitor who, because he lacked the funds to finish school, did not achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. Brooks grew up in Chicago and, according to George Kent, was "spurned by members of her own race because she lacked social or athletic abilities, a light skin, and good grade hair." She was deeply hurt by this rejection and took solace in her writing. She became known to her family and friends as "the female Paul Lawrence Dunbar" and received compliments on her poems and encouragement from James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, prominent writers with whom she initiated correspondence and whose readings she attended in Chicago. By the age of sixteen, she had compiled a substantial portfolio, consisting of over 75 poems.

Early Career

After graduating from Wilson Junior College in 1936, she worked briefly at "The Mecca," a Chicago tenement building. She participated in poetry readings and workshops at Chicago's South Side Community Art Center, producing verse that would appear in her first published volume, A Street in Bronzeville in 1945.

In 1939 she married Henry L. Blakeley, and together they would raise two children: Henry, Jr., and Nora. When she married she became a housewife and mother. But instead of directing her creative energy entirely to domestic chores, Brooks wrote poetry when the children were asleep or later while they were in school. In this way she wrote several collections of poetry, which constitutes her early work: A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen (1949), The Bean Eaters (1960), and Selected Poems (1962). During this time she also wrote a novel, Maud Martha (1953).

The work of this period is characterized by her portraits of urban African American people involved in their day-today activities and by her technical form, lofty diction, and intricate word play. Critics have frequently labeled her early work as intellectual, sophisticated, and academic. Although these poems sing out against social and sexual oppression, they are frequently complex and, therefore, in need of close textual reading to uncover their protest and Brooks' own social commentary. In many of these works she criticized the color prejudice which African American people inflict on one another by calling attention to their tendency to prefer light-skinned African American people. In Annie Allen and Maud Martha she examined the conventional gender roles of mother and father, husband and wife, and found that they frequently stifle creativity out of those who try to live up to artificial ideals. But this social criticism tends to be pushed back into the complicated language.

In recognition of these works, in 1950, Brooks was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and became the first African American to be granted this honor.

New Tone

In 1967, Brooks' work achieved a new tone and vision. She simplified her technique so that her themes, rather than her techniques, stood in the forefront. This change can be traced to her growing political conscienceness, previously hinted at in Selected Poems, after witnessing the combative spirit of several young African American authors at the Second Black Writers' Conference held at Fisk University that year. These works include: In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969), Aloneness (1971), Family Pictures (1971), the autobiographical Report from Part One (1972), The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves: Or, What You Are You Are (1974), Beckonings (1975), and Primer for Blacks (1980). These works are much more direct, and they are designed to sting the mind into a higher level of racial awareness. Foregoing the traditional poetic forms, she favored free verse and increased the use of her vernacular to make her works more accessible to African Americans and not just academic audiences and poetry magazines.

During the 1970s, Brooks taught poetry at numerous institutions for higher learning, including Northeastern Illinois State College (now Northeastern Illinois University), University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the City College of the City University of New York. She continued to write, and while her concern for the African American nationalist movement and racial solidarity continued to dominate her verse in the early-1970s, the energy and optimism of Riot and Family Pictures were replaced in the late-1970s with an impression of disenchantment resulting from the divisiveness of the civil rights and "Black Power" movements. This mood was reflected in Beckonings (1975) and To Disembark (1980), where she urged African Americans to break free from the repression of white American society and advocated violence and anarchy as acceptable means.

Later, Brooks spent her time encouraging others to write by sponsoring writers' workshops in Chicago and poetry contests at correctional facilities. In 1985, she was named as the consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress. In short, she has taken poetry to her people, continuing to test its relevance by reading her poetry and lecturing in taverns, barrooms, lounges, and other public places as well as in academic circles.

In later years Brooks continued to write, with Children Coming Home (1992) and Blacks (1992). In 1990 Brooks' works were ensured a home when Chicago State University established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center on its campus. She continued to inspire others to write, focusing on young children by speaking and giving poetry readings at schools around the country.

In 1997, on the occasion of her 80th birthday, she was honored with tributes from Chicago to Washington D.C. Although she was honored by many, perhaps the best description of Brooks' life and career came from her publisher, Haki Madhubuti, when he said, "She is undoubtedly one of the top 100 writers in the world. She has been a chronicler of black life, specifically black life on the South Side of Chicago. She has become almost a legend in her own time."

Honors

In addition to her Pulitzer Prize, Brooks has been awarded an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1946), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1946 and 1947), a Poetry magazine award (1949), a Friend of Literature Award (1963), a Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1971), a Shelley Memorial Award (1976), an Essence Award (1988), a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America (1989), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (1989), a Jefferson Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1994), as well as some 49 honorary degrees from universities and colleges, including Columbia College in 1964, Lake Forest College in 1965, and Brown University in 1974. Moreover, she was named poet laureate of Illinois in 1969 and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1985 she reached the pinnacle of her career when she became the poetry consultant at the Library of Congress, the second African American and the first African American woman to hold that position.

Further Reading

The best source of biographical information is Brooks' own autobiography, Report from Part One (1972). Critical information on Brooks includes Don L. Lee "The Achievement of Gwendolyn Brooks," in Black Scholar (Summer, 1972); Gloria T. Hill "A Note on the Poetic Technique of Gwendolyn Brooks," in College Languages Association Journal (December, 1975); Suzanne Juhasz "A Sweet Inspiration … of My People: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni," in Naked and Fiery Forms (1976); Hortense J. Spillers "Gwendolyn the Terrible: Propositions on Eleven Poems," in Shakespeare's Sisters (1979); George E. Kent "Aesthetic Values in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks," in Black American Literature and Humanism, edited by R. Baxter Miller (1981); Mari Evans "Gwendolyn Brooks," in Black Women Writers, 1950-1980 (1983); and Claudia Tate "Gwendolyn Brooks," in Black Women Writers at Work (1983).

Further biographical information on Brooks can found in Shirley Henderson "Our Miss Brooks on Eve of Her 80th Birthday, Poet Offers Some Answers," in the June 6, 1997 issue of the Chicago Tribune and in Heather Lalley "Paying Tribute to Illinois' Poet Laureate as Brooks Turns 80, City Finds Words to Describe Her Power to Inspire," in the June 5, 1997 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Her life and works are also the subject of George E. Kent A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks (1990). □

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Brooks, Gwendolyn

Gwendolyn Brooks

Born: June 7, 1917
Topeka, Kansas
Died: December 3, 2000
Chicago, Illinois

African American poet

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and is best known for her poetic descriptions of African American city life.

Early life

Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas, the eldest child of Keziah (Wims) Brooks, a schoolteacher, and David Anderson Brooks, a janitor, who, because he lacked the funds to finish school, did not achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. Brooks grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents often read to her and encouraged her to do well in school, but she was a shy girl. According to George Kent, she was "spurned by members of her own race because she lacked social or athletic abilities, a light skin, and good grade hair."

Brooks was deeply hurt by this rejection and spent most of her childhood writing. She became known to her family and friends as "the female Paul Lawrence Dunbar" (1872 1906; a famous African American poet). She received compliments on her poems and encouragement from James Weldon Johnson (18711938) and Langston Hughes (19021967), well-known writers with whom she began correspondence and whose readings she attended in Chicago. By the age of sixteen she had written over seventy-five poems.

Early career

After graduating from Wilson Junior College in 1936, Brooks worked as director of publicity for a youth organization of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She participated in poetry readings and workshops at Chicago's South Side Community Art Center, producing verse that would appear in her first published volume, A Street in Bronzeville, in 1945. In 1939 she married Henry L. Blakeley, another young writer, and together they would raise two children. Brooks continued to write poetry when the children were asleep or later while they were in school. A second collection titled Annie Allen was released in 1949. In 1950 Brooks was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, becoming the first African American to be granted this honor. She also wrote a novel, Maud Martha, in 1953. Other poetry collections included The Bean Eaters (1960) and Selected Poems (1962).

Brooks's work from this period contains descriptions mostly of African American people involved in their day-to-day city activities. In them she used a strict technical form, lofty word choice, and complicated word play. Critics labeled her early work as intellectual and scholarly. Although these poems speak out against the oppression (cruel exercise of power against a particular group) of blacks and women, some of them require close reading to uncover their true meanings. In many of these works she criticized the prejudice that African American people have toward one another by calling attention to their favored treatment of light-skinned African American people. In Annie Allen and Maud Martha she examines the traditional roles of mother and father, and husband and wife, concluding that they can be damaging to those who try to live up to artificial ideals. But these messages tend to be hidden somewhat by her complicated language.

New tone

In 1967 Brooks's work achieved a new tone and vision. She changed to a more simple writing style so that her themes could come across more strongly. This change can be traced to her growing political awareness, previously hinted at in Selected Poems, after witnessing the strong spirit of several young African American authors at the Second Black Writers' Conference held at Fisk University. Among such works are In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969), Aloneness (1971), Family Pictures (1971), the autobiographical (description of her own life) Report from Part One (1972), The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves: Or, What You Are You Are (1974), Beckonings (1975), and Primer for Blacks (1980). These works are much more direct and are designed to increase the reader's level of racial awareness. No longer using traditional poetic forms, Brooks now favored free verse. She also increased the use of her vernacular (a language spoken by people of a particular group or from a certain area) to make her works more understandable for African Americans, not just for university audiences and the editors of poetry magazines.

During the 1970s Brooks taught poetry at numerous institutions for higher learning, including Northeastern Illinois State College (now Northeastern Illinois University), the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the City College of the City University of New York. She continued to write. Yet, while her concern for African Americans and hope for racial harmony was the main subject of her verse in the early 1970s, the energy and positive feeling of Riot and Family Pictures was replaced in the late 1970s with a sense of disappointment resulting from the disagreements and lack of unity among members of the civil rights and "Black Power" movements. This mood was reflected in Beckonings (1975) and To Disembark (1980), where she urged African Americans to break free from the controls of white American society and seemed to favor violence and disorder as acceptable ways of achieving that freedom.

Later years

Brooks spent her time encouraging others to write by sponsoring writers' workshops in Chicago and poetry contests at prisons. In short, she took poetry to her people, continuing to test its worth by reading and speaking in taverns, lounges, and other public places as well as in academic circles. In 1985 she was named as the poetry consultant (one who gives advice) for the Library of Congress. In 1990 her works were guaranteed a permanent home when Chicago State University established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center on its campus. In later years Brooks continued to write, with Children Coming Home and Blacks both being published in 1992. She also continued to inspire others to write, focusing on young children by speaking and giving poetry readings at schools around the country.

In 1997, on her eightieth birthday, Gwendolyn Brooks was honored with tributes from Chicago to Washington, D.C. Although she received many words of tribute, perhaps the best description of Brooks's life and career came from her publisher, Haki Madhubuti, when he said, "She is undoubtedly one of the top one hundred writers in the world. She has been a chronicler (record keeper) of black life, specifically black life on the South Side of Chicago. She has become almost a legend in her own time." Gwendolyn Brooks died of cancer at her Chicago home on December 3, 2000.

For More Information

Bloom, Harold, ed. Gwendolyn Brooks. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.

Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

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Brooks, Gwendolyn Elizabeth

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, 1917–2000, American poet, b. Topeka, Kans. She grew up in the slums of Chicago and lived in that city until her death. Brooks's poems, technically accomplished and written in a variety of forms including quatrains, free verse, ballads, and sonnets, deal with the experience of being black and often of being female in America. She attracted critical attention with her first volume, A Street in Bronzeville (1945). Brooks went on to win the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Annie Allen (1949), becoming the first black woman to win this award. Her verse was collected in The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (1970), which also includes an earlier novelette, Maud Martha (1953). Her work took on a more radical tone beginning with In the Mecca (1968); the subsequent poems in Riot (1970) are written in street dialects. Her other writings include Primer for Blacks (1980) and To Disembark (1981).

See her autobiographies, Report from Part One (1972) and Report from Part Two (1995).

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Brooks, Gwendolyn 1917–2000

Gwendolyn Brooks 19172000

Poet

Began Writing at an Early Age

Published First Book of Poetry

Won Pulitzer Prize

Influenced by Next Generation of Black Writers

Mentored Other Poets

Selected works

Sources

A leading contemporary American poet and the first black writer to be honored with a Pulitzer Prize, Gwendolyn Brooks was acclaimed for her technically accomplished and powerful portraits of black urban life. Throughout a career that spanned six decades and included both poetry and fiction, the prolific Brooks was noted for her carefully wrought and insightful portraits of everyday black life, in which she illuminated racism, poverty, interracial prejudice, and personal alienation. Brooks was also known as one of the most wide-ranging of contemporary black poets; while her earlier work was marked by social realism contained in masterful poetic form, technique, and language, her later efforts displayed a more open, free-verse style and were increasingly direct in exploring themes like social protest, revolution, and black nationalism.

Brooks was praised throughout her career for the complexity and technical skill of her work, which she combined with a compassion for the ordinary that spoke universally to many readers. She commented to Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work that she would prefer not to be known as an intellectual, explaining: I do write from the heart, from personal experience and from the experiences of other people whom I have observed. Very early in life I became fascinated with the wonders language can achieve. And I began playing with words. That word-play is what I have been known for chiefly.

Began Writing at an Early Age

Much of Brookss work is set in her native Chicago, where she lived from her infancy until her death. Her path to becoming a writer started with her parents, who early on encouraged her in reading and writing. Her father, David, regularly told her stories and read aloud from his set of Harvard Classics, while her mother, Keziah, a schoolteacher, composed songs for her children and commissioned Brooks to write plays for the children of a church group she led. When Brookss parents discovered she had promising writing abilities, they relieved her of many household duties and her father set up a working desk for her. As a young girl Brooks read widely and especially admired L. M. Montgomerys Anne of Green Gables books, in addition to the poems of black writer Paul Laurence Dunbar. Fascinated with words, she would spend many hours composing rhymes and poems and record them in a notebook. Confident of her talent, her mother, as Brooks related in her 1972 autobiography, Report

At a Glance

Born Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, KS; died December 3, 2000; daughter of David Anderson (a janitor) and Keziah Corrine (a schoolteacher) Brooks; married Henry Low-ington Blakely, Jr., September 17, 1939 (died 1996); children: Henry Lowington III, Nora. Education: Wilson Junior College, 1936.

Career: Poet and novelist. NAACP Youth Council, publicity director, Chicago, IL, 1937-38; poetry instructor at numerous colleges and universities; City College of the City University of New York, distinguished professor of the arts, 1971; Library of Congress, poetry consultant, 1985-86; Jefferson Lecturer for Distinguished Intellectual Achievement in Humanities, 1994; American Academy of Poets, fellow, 2000.

Awards: Midwestern Writers Conference poetry award, 1943; Society of Midland Authors, Patron Saints Award, 1945; Mademoiselle, named one of ten Women of the Year 1945; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1946; American Academy of Arts and Letters creative writing award, 1946; Guggenheim fellowship, 1946 and 1947; Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, Poetry, forAnnie Allen, 1949; Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, forAnnie Allen, 1950; Friends of Literature, Robert F. Ferguson Memorial Award, forSelected Poems 1964; Thormod Monsen Literature Award, 1964; Anisfieid-Wolf Award, forIn the Mecca, 1968; named poet laureate of Illinois, 1968; Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1971; Shelley Memorial Award, 1976;Essence Award, 1988; inductee, National Womens Hall of Fame, 1988; Poetry Society of America, Frost Medal, 1989; National Endowment for the Humanities, Lifetime Achievement award, 1989; National Medal of Arts, 1995; Lincoln Laureate Award, 1997; international Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Decent, 1998; National First Ladies Library, First Women award, 1999; over75 honorary degrees from colleges and universities.

From Part One, assured her that one day she would become the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Brooks published her first poem when she was 13 in a popular childrens magazine called American Childhood. When she was 16 she had the opportunity to meet James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, two of the most famous poets of the 1920s literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Brookss mother had prompted her to send samples of her workto Johnson and Hughes; they both assured her that she indeed possessed talent and urged her to continue writing and studying poetry.

Johnson, who encouraged Brooks to study the Modernist poets T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and e. e. cum-mings, served, as Gary Smith noted inMELOS, as Brookss literary mentor, yet Hughes, with whom Brooks would later become great friends, was an even more profound influence. As Brooks described inReport From Part One, The words and deeds of Langston Hughes were rooted in kindness, and in pride. His point of departure was always a clear pride in his race. Mightily did he use the street. He found its multiple heart, its tastes, smells, alarms, formulas, flowers, garbage and convulsions. He brought them all to his table-top. He crushed themto a writing-paste. He himself became the pen. Smith commented that Hughes underscored the value of cultivating the ground upon which [Brooks] stood, and convinced her that a black poet need not travel outside the realm of his own experiences to create a poetic vision and write successful poetry.

While in high school Brooks focused heavily on her writing and study of poetry, and was a regular contributor of poems to theDefender, a black daily newspaper in Chicago. Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936 with a degree in English and went on to work for Chicagos NAACP Youth Council, where she met her future husband, himself an aspiring writer. In 1941 her writing received a boost when she enrolled in a workshop led by Inez Cunningham Stark, a wealthy writer and scholar who traveled to Chicagos predominantly black south side to instruct aspiring poets. Brooks drew much from the comments and criticism of her peers in the workshop and was introduced by Stark to a wealth of contemporary poetry. Brooks wrote inReport From Part One that, while Stark guided the group in the principles of poetry, their own voices were allowed to develop: If, in spite of everything that she could tell us, we stubbornly clung to our own ways and words, and we often so clung, she bowed gracefully and let us alone, trusting to time to further instruct us, or trusting to the possibility that she herself might be wrong. Throughout the early 1940s Brooks developed a substantial local reputation for her poetry, and, in 1943, received a poetry award from the Midwestern Writers Conference. Soon thereafter her work gained national attention.

Published First Book of Poetry

Around 1943 Brooks submitted a manuscript of Negro poems to Harper & Row, who published them in 1945 asA Street in Bronzeville. The poems received wide critical acclaim and Brooks was hailed as a major new voice in contemporary poetry. Drawn from scenes and characters in Brookss Chicago neighborhood, AStreet in Bronzeville offers insight into the aspirations and struggles of ordinary black people. The first section of the book depicts life in the Bronzeville neighborhood, while the second sectiona sequence of twelve sonnets entitled Gay Chaps at the Barexplores prejudice against blacks serving in the Armed Forces during World War II. Demonstrating a mastery of the sonnet, quatrain, and ballad, Brooks was praised for her high level of craft, innovative and distinctive use of idiom and imagery, and fresh glimpse into the lives of blacks.

George E. Kent noted inBlack World that Brookss first book revealed obsessions which would characterize all of her poetry. Brooks revealed in her first book considerable technical resources, a manipulation of folk forms, a growing sense of how traditional forms must be dealt with if the power of the Black voice is to come through with integrity. AStreet in Bronzeville committed its author to a restless experimentation with an elaborate range of artistic approaches. William H. Hansell similarly noted inCLA Journal that AStreet in Bronzeville demonstrated Brookss commitment to a concept of art which she has never surrendered: the artist must work with the materials most familiar to him, with his own milieu.

Won Pulitzer Prize

Following the success of AStreet in Bronzeville, Brooks received a Guggenheim fellowship and was named byMademoiselle magazine as one of their Ten Women of the Year. Brooks received even greater honors with her next book of poetry,Annie Allen, which won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize, marking the first time the award had been bestowed upon a black writer. A complex sequence of poems that trace the coming-of-age of a black woman,Annie Allen is, according to Claudia Tate in ALife Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction, a collection of rigorously technical poems, replete with lofty diction, intricate word play, and complicated concatenations of phrases. George Kent inBlack Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation described the highly crafted poems as an attempt to give artistic structure to tensions arising from the artists experience in moving from the Edenic environment of her parents home into the fallen world of Chicago tenement life in the roles of young wife, mother, and artist. Regarding the centerpiece poem of the collection, The Anniad, Brooks said in an interview reprinted inReport From Part One that she was very interested in the mysteries and magic of technique and that she wanted every phrase to be beautiful, and yet to contribute sanely to the wholeeffect.

Established as a poet, Brooks next ventured to write her first and only novel,Maud Martha, which was published in 1953. LikeAnnie Allen the novel focuses on the life of a young black woman and, as with all of Brookss poetry, scrutinizes the ordinary and everyday to illuminate larger issues and themes. Patricia H. and Vernon E. Lattin inCritique: Studies in Modern Fiction noted that Mauds stage is the home in which she grew up, the schools she attended, the kitchenette where she lives after creative and to be an individual in a gray, oppressive world.

On a different scale than sweepingly dramatic black novels like Richard WrightsNative Son, Maud Martha has been largely overlooked. Lattin and Lattin wrote, With a very loose organization consisting of a series of short vignettes, and with lyrical language never far from poetry, this short novel has a deceptively light and simple exterior which belies the complexity of the interior. David Littlejohn inBlack on White: A Critical Survey of Writing by American Negroes, similarly called Maud Martha accomplished, a striking human experiment, as exquisitely written and as effective as any of Gwendolyn Brookss poetry.

In her 1960 book of poems,The Bean Eaters, Brooks continued to portray the immediate environment and ordinary people and events, noted Hansell. The book also, however, showed Brooks becoming more direct in her concern about black social issues. InThe Bean Eaters Brooks wrote about the integration of the Little Rock, Arkansas, school system, the lynching of blacks in the South, and the misguided efforts of cultured whites to help blacks.

Due to its timing The Bean Eaters appeared just as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentumand political overtones, the book received mixed reviews. Maria K. Mootry reported in ALife Distilled that some reviewers foundThe Bean Eaters sufficient in content and form, while others found it too tame in its protest mission; still others were upset and put off by what they deemed an unseemly social emphasis. Brookss thematic transition inThe Bean Eaters was also reflected in a further evolution in her poetic style, which Kent described as a bolder movement into a free verse appropriate to the situation.

Influenced by Next Generation of Black Writers

In 1967 Brooks attended a writers conference at Fisk University and became acquainted with a group of young writers, including John Killens, Ron Milner, and LeRoi Jones, who were advocating a new perspective for black authors. She commented to Tate on this new breed of black writers: They seemed proud and so committed to their own people.The poets among them felt that black poets should write as blacks, about blacks, and address themselves to blacks. Their message took hold of Brooks and profoundly influenced the direction of her poetry.

Beginning with her 1968 book of poetry,In the Mecca, Brooks displayed what Toni Cade Bambara called in the Neu;York Times Book Review a new movement and energy, intensity, richness, power of statement and a new stripped lean, compressed style. The title poem ofIn the Mecca, set in an inner-city apartment building, traces a mothers search for her missing daughter among the tenants, only to discover in the end that the little girl has been murdered. TheVirginia Quarterly Review called the poem both an impressionistic and naturalistic journey through a huge ghetto apartment house, through the black precincts of despair. R. Baxter Miller inBlack American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960 deemedIn the Mecca a most complex and intriguing book; it seeks to balance the sordid realities of urban life with an imaginative process of reconciliation and redemption. Other poems in the book treated contemporary black heroes Medgar Evans and Malcolm X; another was dedicated to the Rangers, a Chicago street gang. Frederick C. Stern inMidAmerica called the latter quite powerful, an appreciation for those outside the system, which comes quite close to being revolutionary.

In a move to support black publishers, Brooks left her longtime publisher Harper & Row, afterIn the Mecca and chose to have her next several books published by Broadside Press, run by Detroit poet Dudley Randall.Riot (1969),Family Pictures (1970), andBeckonings (1975) further displayed Brookss evolution in theme and style. Most noticeably, Brooks began to discuss revolution, black power, and black nationalism and her style became almost totally free verse. Norris B. Clark inA Life Distilled noted a difference from her earlier work in that Brookss emphasis shifted from a private, internal, and exclusive assessment of the identity crises of twentieth-century persons to a communal, external, and inclusive assessment of the black communal experience. Brooks described her change in focus to Tate: What Im fighting for now in my work, [is] for an expression relevant to all manner of blacks, poems I could take into a tavern, into the street, into the halls of a housing project. I dont want to say these poems have to be simple, but I want to clarify my language. I want these poems to be free. I want them to be direct without sacrificing the kinds of music, the picturemaking Ive always been interested in. Critics noted that Brooks was no less masterful in her craft in these later poems, and, as in her earlier work, still focused on the situations of individuals with compassion and understanding.

Kent summarized Brookss overall stature as a poet inBlack World: Brooks shares with Langsten Hughes the achievement of being most responsive to turbulent changes in the Black Communitys vision of itself and to the changing forms of its vibrations during decades of rapid change. The depth of her responsiveness and her range of poetic resources make her one of the most distinguished poets to appear in America during the 20th Century. Throughout her writing career Brooks was noted for maintaining a level of objectivity which, however specific and direct her subject matter, gave her poetry a universal appeal. According to Blyden Jackson inBlack Poetry in America: Two Essays in Historical Interpretation, Brooks offered the close inspection of a limited domain, a view of life in which one may see a microscopic portion of the universe intensely and yet, through that microscopic portion see all truth for the human condition wherever it is.

Mentored Other Poets

In addition to her own writing, Brooks was active in promoting and encouraging the work of other poets. In her native Illinois, where she was named poet laureate in 1968, Brooks organized numerous poetry competitions, and often offered prize money from her own funds. She visited elementary schools, colleges, prisons, and drug rehabilitation centers, bringing people the art of poetry. In 1985, at the age of 68, she was appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, the first black woman to be named to the post. Among the many other honors she has received in her distinguished career, The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for African-American Literature was established at Western Illinois University, and a junior high school in Harvey, Illinois, was named for her.

Brooks continued to write into her seventies and eighties. In 1996 she published a second autobiographical volume,Report From Part Two. The book contained stories as well as poems, in which Brooks reflected on the world around her. During the summer of 2000. Brooks completed work on a new volume of poetry,In Montgomery. However, she would not see the release of this book, slated for publication in 2001, for, in late November of 2000, Brooks was diagnosed with cancer. She died a week later, surrounded by loved ones who took turns reading to her, on December 3rd at the age of 83.

In an interview shortly before her death, Brooks said, as quoted inJet, I believe that we should all know each other, we human carriers of so many pleasurable differences. She governed her life by this philosophy, sharing so much of herself in her poems and reaching out to mentor budding poets of varying backgrounds. Poet Haki Madhubuti toldJet, She mentored literally three generations of poets, Black, White, Hispanic, Native American. She was all over the map sharing her gifts. Madhubuti, whose eulogy for Brooks was excerpted inEssence, observed, She wore her love in her language.

Selected works

Poetry

A Street in Bronzeville, Harper, 1945.

Annie Allen, Harper, 1949.

Bronzeville Boys and Girls (juvenile), Harper, 1956.

The Bean Eaters, Harper, 1960.

Selected Poems, Harper, 1963.

In the Mecca, Harper, 1968.

Riot, Broadside Press, 1969.

Family Pictures, Broadside Press, 1970.

Aloneness, Broadside Press, 1971.

(Editor) A Broadside Treasury, Broadside Press, 1971.

(Editor) Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology, Broadside Press, 1971.

Aurora, Broadside Press, 1972.

The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves (juvenile), Third World Press, 1974.

Beckonings, Broadside Press, 1975.

Primer for Blacks, Black Position Press, 1980.

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, The David Co., 1987.

In Montgomery, 2001.

Other

Maud Martha (novel), Harper, 1953.

The World of Gwendolyn Brooks, Harper, 1971.

Report From Part One: An Autobiography, Broadside Press, 1972.

Report From Part Two, Third World Press, 1996.

Young Poets Primer (writing manual), Brooks Press, 1981.

Very Young Poets (writing manual), Brooks Press, 1983.

Sources

Books

Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors, Gale, 1989.

Bloom, Harry, editor.Contemporary Poets, Chelsea House, 1986.

Brooks, Gwendolyn.Report From Part One: An Autobiography, Broadside Press, 1972.

Concise Dictionary of Literary Biography, 1941-1968, Gale, 1985.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 1, 1973; Volume 2, 1974; Volume 4, 1975; Volume 5, 1976; Volume 15, 1980; Volume 49, 1989.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets Since World War II, Gale, 1980.

Evans, Mari, editor.Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984.

Jackson, Blyden, and Louis D. Rubin, Jr.Black Poetry in America: Two Essays in Historical Interpretation, Louisiana State University Press, 1974.

Kent, George.Gwendolyn Brooks: A Life, University Press of Kentucky, 1988.

Littlejohn, David.Black on White: A Critical Survey of Writing by American Negroes, Viking, 1966.

Madhubuti, Haki R.Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks, Third World Press, 1987.

Melhem, D. H.Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice, University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

Miller, R. Baxter.Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960, University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

Mootry, Maria K. and Gary Smith, editors. ALife Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction, University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Shaw, Harry F.Gwendolyn Brooks, Twayne, 1980.

Tate, Claudia.Black Women Writers at Work, Continuum, 1983.

Periodicals

Black Issues in Higher Education, December 21, 2000.

Black World, September 1971.

CLA Journal, March 1987.

Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, Summer 1984.

Essence, March 2001.

Jet, April 5, 1999; December 18, 2000.

MELUS, Fall 1983.

MidAmerica, Volume 12, 1985.

New York Times Book Review, January 7, 1973.

Poets & Writers, March-April, 2000.

Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter, 1969.

Michael E. Mueller and Jennifer M. York

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