Women and Adversity: Gwendolyn Brooks, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Poetry
With April being National Poetry Month, I thought a tribute to poets is appropriate, and I’m starting with Gwendolyn Brooks.
Ms. Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. It was the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her book “Annie Allen.” She was Poet Laureate of Illinois from 1968 until her death in 2000 and is one of the most highly acclaimed poets in American literature.
I met Ms. Brooks in 1990 when I asked her to be a featured speaker in a writers’ conference I organized at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL. She was one of the most gracious women I have ever met in my life. She was soft-spoken, deliberate and considerate. I was astonished when she produced copies of a few of her books, and asked me to choose one she would autograph. I picked “Blacks” because I thought it defined her ability to express the needs and dreams of all people.
A life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side and a life-long writer, Ms. Brooks had her poem, “Eventide,” published in “American Childhood Magazine” when she was 13. Encyclopedia of World Biography cites passages from George Kent’s “A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks” in which he writes Ms. Brooks was not accepted by fellow blacks when she was growing up because she didn’t have social or athletic abilities. Also, she was light skinned and had “good grade hair.” She, of course, was hurt at being rejected, so she spent most of her time writing.
She wrote about prejudice, poverty, discrimination and the plight of blacks, specifically black ife in Chicago. She was able to capture the desperation, isolation and anguish of the people. She presents situations in a way that people understand and want to change.
More about Ms. Brooks is at: