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Poetry History

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Lifespan:June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000

Born in in Topeka, Kansas, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks began writing poetry from an early age and by the time she graduated from high school in 1935, she was already a regular contributor to the newspaper The Chicago Defender. Her first poem “Eventide” was published in the children’s magazine, American Childhood, when she was 13. Her first collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945 and it instantly brought her critical acclaim for its authentic portraits of life in the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago. The second poetry book of Brooks, Annie Allen, was published in 1949. It focused on the life and experiences of a young Black girl growing into womanhood in Bronzeville. Annie Allen was awarded the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry making Gwendolyn Brooks the first African American to receive the honor. In 1968, Brooks was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois, a position she held till her death in the year 2000. She was also the United States Poet Laureate for the term 1985–86. Brooks received numerous other honors. Among other things, she was the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1976.


We Real Cool1960

the mother1945

The Bean Eaters1960

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