|Birth Day:||June 7, 1917|
|Death Date:||Dec 3, 2000 (age 83)|
|Birth Place:||Topeka, United States|
As per our current Database, Gwendolyn Brooks died on Dec 3, 2000 (age 83).
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She published her first poem in a children's magazine when she was just thirteen years old.
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas. She was the first child of David Anderson Brooks and Keziah (Wims) Brooks. Her father, a janitor for a music company, had hoped to pursue a career as a doctor but sacrificed that aspiration to get married and raise a family. Her mother was a school teacher as well as a concert pianist trained in classical music. Brooks' mother had taught at the Topeka school that later became involved in the famous Brown v. Board of Education racial desegregation case. Family lore held that Brooks' paternal grandfather had escaped slavery to join the Union forces during the American Civil War.
Brooks began writing at an early age and her mother encouraged her, saying, "You are going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar." During her teenage years, she began submitting poems to various publications. By the time she had graduated from high school in 1935, she was already a regular contributor to The Chicago Defender.
After her early educational experiences, Brooks never pursued a four-year college 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 graduated in 1936 from a two-year program at Wilson Junior College, now known as Kennedy-King College, and worked as a typist to support herself while she pursued her career.
In 1939, Brooks married Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr., whom she met after joining Chicago's NAACP Youth Council. They had two children: Henry Lowington Blakely III, and Nora Brooks Blakely. Brooks' husband died in 1996.
By 1941, Brooks was taking part in poetry workshops. A particularly influential one was organized by Inez Cunningham Stark, an affluent white woman with a strong literary background. Stark offered writing workshops at the new South Side Community Art Center, which Brooks attended. It was here she gained momentum in finding her voice and a deeper knowledge of the techniques of her predecessors. Renowned poet Langston Hughes stopped by the workshop and heard her read "The Ballad of Pearl May Lee". 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. In the autobiographical information she provided to the magazine, she described her occupation as a "housewife".
The book earned instant critical acclaim for its authentic and textured portraits of life in Bronzeville. Brooks later said it was a glowing review by Paul Engle in the Chicago Tribune that "initiated My Reputation". Engle stated that Brooks' poems were no more "Negro poetry" than Robert Frost's work was "white poetry". Brooks received her first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946 and was included as one of the "Ten Young Women of the Year" in Mademoiselle magazine.
In 1953, Brooks published her first and only narrative book, a novella titled Maud Martha, which in 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. It tells the story of "a woman with doubts about herself and where and how she fits into the world. Maud's concern is not so much that she is inferior but that she is perceived as being ugly," states author Harry B. Shaw in his book Gwendolyn Brooks. Maud suffers prejudice and discrimination not only from white individuals but also from black individuals who have lighter skin tones than hers, something that is a direct reference to Brooks' personal experience. Eventually, Maud stands up for herself by turning her back on a patronizing and racist store clerk. "The book is ... about the triumph of the lowly," Shaw comments. In contrast, literary scholar Mary Helen Washington emphasizes Brooks's critique of racism and sexism, calling Maud Martha "a novel about bitterness, rage, self-hatred, and the silence that results from suppressed anger".
From mid-1961 to late 1964, Henry III served in the U.S. Marine Corps, first at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and then at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. During this time, Brooks mentored her son's fiancée, Kathleen Hardiman, in writing poetry. Upon his return, Blakely and Hardiman married in 1965. Brooks had so enjoyed the mentoring relationship that she began to engage more frequently in that role with the new generation of young black poets.
In 1967, the year of Langston Hughes's death, Brooks attended the Second Black Writers' Conference at Nashville's Fisk University. Here, according to one version of events, she met activists and artists such as Imamu Amiri Baraka, Don L. Lee and others who exposed her to new black cultural nationalism. Recent studies argue that she had been involved in leftist politics in Chicago for many years and, under the pressures of McCarthyism, adopted a black nationalist posture as a means of distancing herself from her prior political connections. Brooks's experience at the conference inspired many of her subsequent literary activities. She taught creative writing to some of Chicago's Blackstone Rangers, otherwise a violent criminal gang. In 1968, she published one of her most famous works, In the Mecca, a long poem about a mother's search for her lost child in a Chicago apartment building. The poem was nominated for the National Book Award for poetry.
Her autobiographical Report From Part One, including reminiscences, interviews, photographs and vignettes, came out in 1972, and Report From Part Two was published in 1995, when she was almost 80.
When Brooks was six weeks old, her family moved to Chicago during the Great Migration, and from then on, Chicago remained her home. She would closely identify with Chicago for the rest of her life. In a 1994 interview, she remarked,
Gwendolyn Brooks died at her Chicago home on December 3, 2000, aged 83.
Currently, Gwendolyn Brooks is 105 years, 11 months and 22 days old. Gwendolyn Brooks will celebrate 106th birthday on a Wednesday 7th of June 2023.
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