Thursday, June 7, 2007
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born on this date in 1917. An American poet, she is the first African-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College in 1936. Critics praised her first book of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, (1945) as a moving evocation of life in an urban Black neighborhood. In 1949, Brooks wrote Annie Allen, and was awarded the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Since then, she has written a number of selections for readers of all ages. These include Maude Martha (1953), The Bean Eaters (1960), In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969), Jump Bad (edited): A NewChicago Anthology (1971), Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972), To Disembark (1981), The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986), Blacks (1987), and Children Coming Home (1991). Brooks is noted for her adaptation of traditional forms of poetry and for her use of short verse lines and casual rhymes. Brooks was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois in 1968, succeeding Carl Sandburg. In 1985 she was appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. In 1990 Brooks became the first American to receive the Society for Literature Award from the University of Thessalonica in Athens, Greece. She received the National Book Foundation's medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1994. Gwen Brooks died December 4, 2000.