First African-American poet to win pulitzer award in 1950, Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas to David Anderson Brooks and Keziah Wims Brooks.
Being the only child of a janitor father and a school teacher as a mother, Gwendolyn Brooks moved to Chicago during the Great Migration when she was just six.
Brooks, also known as Gwendie was said to have attended three high schools: The Prestigious, Integrated Hyde Park High School, The All-Black Wendell Phillips Academy High School and The Integrated Englewood High School and had graduated from Wilson Junior College, in which she had already begun her writing career with some published works.
In 1939, Brooks married Henry Lowington Blakely Jr, and they had two children – Henry and Nora.
Gwendolyn Brooks published her first poem that appeared on a children’s magazine, at the age of thirteen. By sixteen years, Gwendie was said to have published over 70 poems before she started submitting her works to Chicago Defender – an African American newspaper.
While Gwendolyn Brooks was building her life as a poet, she worked as a secretary in a firm. She also attended poetry workshops. She excelled and gained a massive attention before bagging her first award in 1943 from the Midwestern Writer’s Conference.
The book she wrote in 1945; ‘A Street in Bronzeville’ came with a huge success that earned her both recognitions and honors.
In 1949, she wrote her second poetry, Annie Allen, the work that won her the Pulitzer award in poetry, a feat that made her the first African-American to win the Pulitzer award.
In 1960, Gwendolyn Brooks became an instructor of creative writing at Columbia University, Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin.
Still in 1960, she wrote her third book, ‘The Bean Eaters’, which included “We Real Cool,” a poem that pictures the life of a youth, rebellion and morality.
In 1968, she wrote ‘In the Mecca’ a poem that was nominated for a National Book Award in poetry and was named the poet laureate of Illinois.
In 1969, she won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
She was admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and won the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America in 1976.
In 1985, Brooks was made the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and won the Poet Laureate of the United States.
In 1988, her named was placed on the Women’s Hall of Fame before being awarded the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement by the Poetry Society of America in the next year.
In 1994, she became the representative chosen to present the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecture and also was awarded the National Book Foundation ‘s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
She was given the National Medal of Arts in 1995, and was awarded the highest honor granted by the State of Illinois – the Order of Lincoln in 1997.
In 1999, Brooks received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement award.
Numerous awards and honors she had before her death on 3rd December 2000 in Chicago. She lived for 83.