There are ancestors who have called my name through the ethers of my dreams when I was a young girl growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. I heard the spirit of Bessie Coleman, and I imagined myself becoming the second African American woman to soar in the skies as she did. However, I was discouraged from that dream and a few more.
I found solace in writing. My retreat was to write in my daily journals. I was fortunate to learn of a poet whom I could identify with since she was African American, born in the Midwestern state next to mine (Kansas), and she wrote about a city that I adored — Chicago.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born on this day — June 7 — in 1917. In 1950, she became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her second book of poetry, Annie Allen, which chronicles the evolution of a young Black girl into womanhood in the community of Bronzeville on the near southside of Chicago, Illinois.
Pultizer Prize-winning book!
Bronzeville is an exciting book for a young person to read.
I eagerly sought biographies or any form of storytelling to learn of the everyday lives of Brooks and others who have passed onto their ancestral homes. Brooks’ life was changed at 6 months old when her family moved from Kansas to Chicago. She called the Windy City home until her transitition in December 2000.
There are so many highlights of her personal and professional life that the space in this blog is limited. Here are a few:
Honors and legacy
Sara S. Miller’s 1994 Bronze Portrait Bust Of Gwendolyn Brooks
1946, Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry
1946, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award
1950, Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
1968, appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois, a position she held until her death in 2000
1976, the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America
1985, selected as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, an honorary one-year position whose title was renamed the next year to Poet Laureate
1988, inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame
1989, recipient, Life Time Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
1989, awarded the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement by the Poetry Society of America
1992, awarded the Aiken Taylor Award by the Sewanee Review
1994, chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, one of the highest honors in American literature and the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government.
1994, Recipient of the National Book Foundations’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
1995, presented with the National Medal of Arts
1995, honored as the first Woman of the Year chosen by the Harvard Black Men’s Forum
1995, received the Chicago History Museum “Making History Award” for Distinction in Literature
1997, awarded the Order of Lincoln award from The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the highest honor granted by the State of Illinois
Brooks also received more than 75 honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide.
1970: “For Sadie and Maud” by Eleanor Holmes Norton, included in Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From The Women’s Liberation Movement (1970), quotes all of Brooks’ poem “Sadie and Maud”
1970: Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois
1995: Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary School, Aurora, Illinois
1990: Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, Chicago State University
2001: Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, Chicago, Illinois
2001: Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Harvey, Illinois
2002: Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Oak Park, Illinois
2003: Gwendolyn Brooks Illinois State Library, Springfield, Illinois
2002: 100 Greatest African Americans
2004 Gwendolyn Brooks Park named by the Chicago Park District, 4542 S. Greenwood Ave. Chicago IL 60653
2005: Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Bolingbrook, Illinois
2012: Honored on a United States’ postage stamp.
Negro Hero (1945)
The Mother (1945)
A Street in Bronzeville (1945)
The Children of the Poor (1949)
Annie Allen (1950)
Maud Martha (1953) (Fiction)
Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956)
The Bean Eaters (1960)
Selected Poems (1963)
A Song in the Front Yard (1963)
We Real Cool (1966)
In the Mecca (1968)
Malcolm X (1968)
Family Pictures (1970)
Black Steel: Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (1971)
The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (1971)
Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972) (Prose)
A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing (1975) (Prose)
Other Music (1976)
Black Love (1981)
To Disembark (1981)
Primer for Blacks (1981) (Prose)
Young Poet’s Primer (1981) (Prose)
Very Young Poets (1983) (Prose)
The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986)
Children Coming Home (1991)
Report From Part Two (1996)
In Montgomery (2000)
From a facebook post by our — Gwendolyn Brooks and me — Sorors, July 18, 2019
Gamma Zeta Chapter/Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc
Triumphant ThursdaysThe Glamourous Gamma Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated will spotlight the life and accomplishments of Triumphant Soror Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet, author and teacher. She was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Topeka, Kansas in 1917, shortly after, her family moved to Chicago. Brooks began writing at a young age with the encouragement from her mother, who said she was “going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar.” She published her first poem, “Eventide” at the age of 13. By age 16, she had written and published approximately 75 poems. In the 1950’s Brooks published her first and only novel. Her first teaching experience was at the University of Chicago.She was married to Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr. until his death in 1996. They had two children. At the age of 68, Brooks was the first African American women to be appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. Triumphant Soror Gwendolyn Brooks died at her Chicago home on December 3, 2000.We thank you, Triumphant Soror Gwendolyn Brooks, for your many contributions to Zeta Phi Beta, Sorority Incorporated and the world.