Sunday, December 7, 2014
Gwendolyn E. Brooks-1st African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was an African-American poet. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 and was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas. When Brooks was six weeks old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois during the Great Migration; from then on, Chicago was her hometown. Brooks attended Hyde Park High School, the leading white high school in the city, but transferred to the all-black Wendell Phillips, then to the integrated Englewood High School. In 1936 she graduated from Wilson Junior College. These four schools gave her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that continue[d] to influence her work. Brooks published her 1st poem in a children's magazine at the age of 13. By the time she was 16, she had compiled a portfolio of around 75 published poems. At 17, she started submitting her work to "Lights and Shadows", the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Brooks' 1st book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville earned instant critical acclaim. She received her 1st Guggenheim Fellowship and was included as one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle magazine. With her 2nd book of poetry, Annie Allen, she became the 1st African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry; she also was awarded Poetry magazine’s Eunice Tietjens Prize. After President John F. Kennedy invited Brooks to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962, she began a second career teaching creative writing. In 1967 she attended a writers’ conference at Fisk University where, she said, she rediscovered her blackness. This rediscovery is reflected in her work In The Mecca (1968).
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