Gwendolyn Brooks Illinois State Library
June 7, 2017, marked the centenary of the birth of poet, novelist and educator Gwendolyn Brooks. Born in Topeka, Kansas, Brooks moved to Chicago with her family as an infant and resided in the city the rest of her life. Regarded as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, Brooks was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 1968, she was named Illinois Poet Laureate, succeeding Carl Sandburg, and held that title until her death on December 3, 2000. She also served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1985 through 1986.
Brooks authored more than twenty books of poetry, including Children Coming Home; The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems; Riot; In the Mecca; The Bean Eaters; Annie Allen; and A Street in Bronzeville. She also wrote one novel, Maud Martha, and two autobiographies, Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972) and Report from Part Two (1996).
In addition to writing, Brooks taught poetry and creative writing at numerous colleges and universities, including Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois State College (now Northeastern Illinois University), Elmhurst College, University of Wisconsin–Madison and Clay College of New York. The Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing was founded in 1990 at Chicago State University, where she served as distinguished professor and writer-in-residence.
Brooks was renowned for using her influence as a leading figure in American literature to promote the value of poetry and to inspire young writers. She established the Illinois Poet Laureate Awards in 1969 to encourage elementary and high school students to develop their skill and passion for creative writing. Brooks was also well known for her generosity, and personally funded countless literary awards and poetry events throughout her lifetime.
Brooks was awarded over seventy-five honorary degrees and a myriad of honors, including a National Medal of the Arts, the Frost Medal and a National Book Foundation Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 1994, she was also named Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is the highest honor the U.S. government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
On June 6, 2003, the Illinois State Library building was officially rededicated and named in honor of Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks' name also appears among the names of Illinois authors etched on the building's exterior fourth-floor frieze. These names represent thirty-five authors who made an indelible mark in literature and in the rich history of Illinois.
“Gwendolyn Brooks was a national treasure who enriched many lives. We are proud and honored that she spent her life here in Illinois, teaching and bringing poetry to our schools, hospitals and prisons. It is fitting that her name be permanently attached to the Illinois State Library – a place where anyone can access knowledge and appreciate the contributions of such a gifted artist.”
- A Street in Bronzeville, Harper, 1945
- Annie Allen, Harper, 1949
- "We Real Cool," Poetry magazine, 1959 (In The Bean Eaters, Harper, 1960)
- The Bean Eaters, Harper, 1960
- Selected Poems, Harper, 1963
- In the Time of Detachment, In the Time of Cold, Civil War Centennial Commission of Illinois, 1965.
- For Illinois 1968; A Sesquicentennial Poem, Illinois Sesquicentennial Commission, 1968
- In the Mecca, Harper, 1968
- Riot, Broadside Press, 1969
- Family Pictures, Broadside Press, 1970
- Aloneness, Broadside Press, 1971
- Black Steel: Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, Broadside Press, 1971
- Beckonings, Broadside Press, 1975
- Primer for Blacks, Black Position Press, 1980
- To Disembark, Third World Press, 1981
- Black Love, Brooks Press, 1982
- The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems, David Co., 1986
- Blacks, David Co., 1987
- Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantelle, David Co., 1988
- Winnie, Third World Press, 1988
- Children Coming Home, David Co., 1991
- In Montgomery and Other Poems, Third World Press, 2003
- The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, Library of America, 2005
- Bronzeville Boys and Girls, Harper, 1956
- The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, Third World Press, 1974
- Very Young Poets, Brooks Press, 1983
- A Broadside Treasury, Broadside Press 1971
- Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology, Broadside Press 1971
- Maud Martha, Harper, 1953
- The World of Gwendolyn Brooks, Harper, 1971
- Report from Part One: An Autobiography, Broadside Press, 1972
- A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing, Broadside Press, 1975 (with Keorapetse Kgositsile, Haki R. Madhubuti and Dudley Randall)
- Young Poets' Primer, Brooks Press, 1981
- Report from Part Two (autobiography), Third World Press, 1996
Honors and Awards
- American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1946
- Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry, 1946, 1947
- Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, Poetry magazine (Annie Allen), 1949
- Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (Annie Allen), 1950
- Robert F. Ferguson Memorial Award, Friends of Literature, (Selected Poems), 1964
- Thormod Monsen Literature Award, 1964
- Illinois Poet Laureate, 1968-2000
- Finalist, National Book Award for Poetry (In the Mecca), 1969
- Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (In the Mecca), 1969
- Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1971
- Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, 1976
- Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 1978
- Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, 1985-1986
- Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, 1988
- Lifetime Achievement Award, National Endowment for the Arts, 1988
- Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement, Poetry Society of America, 1989
- Aiken Taylor Award, Sewanee Review, 1992
- Jefferson Lecturer, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1994
- Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, National Book Foundation, 1994
- National Medal of Arts, 1995
- Woman of the Year, Harvard Black Men's Forum, 1995
- The Richard Wright Making History Award for Distinction in Literature, Chicago History Museum, 1995
- Order of Lincoln award, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 1997
- Illinois State Library building rededicated and named in Brooks' honor, 2003
- Inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010
- Atwell, Mary Welek. "Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917–2000)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, edited by Anne Commire, vol. 3, Yorkin Publications, 2002, pp. 72-76.
- Bloom, Harold., ed. Bloom's BioCritiques: Gwendolyn Brooks. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005.
- ––– . Bloom's Major Poets: Gwendolyn Brooks. Broomall: Chelsea House, 2003.
- Gayles, Gloria Wade, ed. Conversations with Gwendolyn Brooks. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
- Hill, Christine M. Gwendolyn Brooks: "poetry is life distilled." Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2005.
- Jackson, Angela. A Surprised Queenhood In The New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy Of Gwendolyn Brooks. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.
- Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
- Madhubuti, Haki R. Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago: Third World Press, 1987.
- Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry & the Heroic Voice. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987.
- Mickle, Mildred R., ed. Gwendolyn Brooks. Pasadena: Salem Press, 2010.
- Miller, R. Baxter. Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K.Hall, 1978.
- Mootry, Maria and Gary Smith, eds. A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry And Fiction. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
- Rhynes, Martha E. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poet from Chicago. Greensboro: Morgan Reynolds, 2003.
- Shaw, Harry B.. Gwendolyn Brooks. Boston: Twayne, 1980.
- Wright, Stephen Caldwell., ed. On Gwendolyn Brooks: Reliant Contemplation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
- Academy of American Poets: Gwendolyn Brooks
- Brooks Permissions
- Celebrating Gwendolyn Brooks@100 (University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
- The Gwendolyn Brooks Papers, 1917-2000, bulk 1950-1989 (Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)
- Illinois Authors Directory: Gwendolyn Brooks
- Illinois Poet Laureate: Gwendolyn Brooks
- Library of Congress Biographies: Gwendolyn Brooks
- Modern American Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks
- Our Miss Brooks 100
- The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress: Past Poets Laureate: 1981-1990
- Poetry Foundation: Gwendolyn Brooks