Gwendolyn Brooks, Respected Poet at Home in Illinois
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was a tour de force African-American poet who won the highest awards in American literature for her work, beginning with being the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950.
Born in Topeka, Kansas, Brooks moved to Illinois where she was long considered a thought leader emanating specifically from the Chicago literary scene and who became the state’s poet laureate in 1968. Read more about her life and works here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gwendolyn-Brooks. Another excellent resource with well-selected links is https://primarysourcenexus.org.
According to modernamericanpoetry.org:
“Chicago’s South Side Black ghetto has always figured heavily in her work; she is in a way a poet of that neighborhood. Yet out of it came poems addressing the general status of race in America in a style that mixes international modernism with local experience. Brooks worked hard and successfully to reach a broad popular audience, but her poems are also deeply challenging.”
A playground park at 4532 South Greenwood Avenue is named after this lifelong Chicago resident, and it features a bronze bust of the writer. In her memory. be sure to bring or access online at least some of the poetry of this prolific writer to read if you find yourself at this park on a beautiful day.
The George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library, in Bronzeville, was a gathering place for Black Renaissance writers of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Bronzeville, known as the “Black Metropolis,” is in the historic South Side of Chicago, and its population size is similar to a mid-to-small town.
Read examples of poetry written at and about Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks here: Poem Hunter.
“I felt that I had to write. Even if I had never been published, I knew that I would go on writing, enjoying it and experiencing the challenge.” –Gwendolyn Brooks
Read about some of the literary peers of Gwendolyn Brooks here:
These destinations connected to Gwendolyn Brooks make up together the fourth stop on our Illinois Author Adventures Trail.