Gwendolyn Brooks, poet:
“Don’t let anyone call you a minority if you’re Black or Hispanic or belong to some other ethnic group. You’re not less than anybody else.”
Today, Brooks is considered to be one of the most revered poets of the 20th century, but when she began writing, Gwendolyn was a young girl living in Chicago.
Her mother informed her that she was going to be “the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar”, and in her teenage years she began submitting her poetry to various publications.
By the time she graduated from high school, she’d become a regular contributor to The Chicago Defender. Brooks never considered a four-year degree because she always knew she wanted to be a writer. In 1944, she achieved a goal she had been pursuing through continued unsolicited submissions since she was 14 years old: two of her poems were published in Poetry magazine’s November issue. Brooks’ published her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945), with Harper & Brothers, after a strong show of support to the publisher from fellow author Richard Wright.
In 1950, Brooks became the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for “Annie Allen.” In 1953, Brooks published her first and only narrative book, a novella titled Maud Martha, which is a series of 34 vignettes follows the life of a Black woman named Maud Martha Brown as she moves about life from childhood to adulthood. Gwendolyn also served as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, the first Black woman to hold that position, and was poet laureate of the State of Illinois.
Her works were a constant reflection of the political and social landscape surrounding the civil rights movement and the economic climate of the time.
By Aprille’ Morris & Emily Burke
Edited By Keshav Kant