Friday 1 September 2023


On June 7th in 1917, celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born. She became the first African American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her poetry which Richard Wright described as “an honest human reaction to the pain that lurks so colorfully in the Black Belt.” Brooks was honored for a volume titled Annie Allen, which chronicled the life of a young Black girl growing up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. In many ways, the prose in Annie Allen grew from Brooks’ own childhood.  Brooks was thirteen when her first published poem, ‘Eventide’, appeared in American Childhood.

By seventeen, her work had found a receptive audience with readers of the Black newspaper The Chicago Defender, whose readership spanned the country.  Brooks received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation and was the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award among other honors.  Brooks was the recipient of more than 70 honorary degrees from colleges around the country.  She also served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress — the position that would eventually be renamed poet laureate of the United States.

📸 Photograph by Moneta Sleet Jr. Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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