The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks was born on June 7, 1917 to Keziah Corine Wims and David Anderson Brooks. They met in 1914 in Chicago and married each other in 1916. Her family moved to Chicago in 1917. They were only the second black family in the neighborhood. In December of 1918 they gave birth to their second and last child Raymond. Therefore making Gwendolyn and her younger brother Raymond 18 months apart. Because they were so close in age they were best friends. This was a brother and sister bond that no one could destroy.

 At the age of six Gwendolyn attended Forrestville Elementary School. She was not the typical six year old. Instead of playing with jacks and riding bicycles she would rather sit on her back porch and daydream staring up into the sky. This made her feel at ease. Kids didn't like her much. They ignored her and called her names like heifer, and said she was rich and spoiled. Being that she was dark skinned and didn't have a "good grade" of hair was not a beneficiary factor. (Kent, 1990). This only made matters worse. Ms. Brooks used to play with paper dolls making them organize governments, theaters, facts etc. She generally spent time alone. She was very intelligent for her age and spent the mass majority of her time reading, writing, and drawing.

At the age of eleven she began keeping notebooks with the poetry she wrote day to day. She kept these books until the age of 25. Between 1930-33 she kept a list of what color symbolism meant to her in her notebooks. For example she said the color red meant ashamed, and disgrace. The color brown meant gleeful and ambitious. Green meant envious and jealous. And the color black meant flower of crime. Being that these were Gwendolyns' idea of each these colors she showed me that she was an open minded person. These colors showed her views and outlooks on life. Some of the poems in her notebooks even dealt with her love for nature.

 At the age of thirteen she became interested in The Writer's Digest. Her father gave her a desk, which helped her on the road to success of being a good writer. She treasured this desk and kept all of her papers and books in it. Her father knew that his daughter had the potential to be anything that she set her mind to. Her mother often referred to her as the "lady" Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was a writer in the early 1900's.

 When Gwendolyn reached high school she was not very happy with her surroundings. In order for her to go to a better school her parents lied and said she lived with her Aunt Ella Mlyer, whom lived closer to the school. She found it very difficult to fit in. At Hyde Park High School she was ignored by the whites, so she transferred to Wendell Phillips High, which was an all black school. The amount of friends she had could have been counted on one hand. She was not happy or popular because she didn't do the things they do. They were into playing kissing games and dancing. They were in the fast lane while Gwendolyn was in the slow one. After this she felt it was necessary to transfer to her last and final school of her choice, Englewood, High. She had to use her friends address to attend here also. At this school she joined the journalism class. She blended in a lot better here because the school was mixed with people of all races. Even though there weren't any black teachers she still enjoyed her surroundings. She felt at home at Englewood and remained until she graduated in 1934.

 While in high school she met two of her favorite poetry writers by the names of Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. Mr.Johnson was very cold and unfriendly. Mr. Hughes, on the other hand inspired her by reading some of her poetry in one of his seminars. He let her know that she was indeed talented. Her mother wanted her to keep her reasurrance and inspiration so she didn't ask her to help around the house as much. She would ask Raymond and her father for help so Gwendolyn could get her writings done.

 Ms. Brooks began to unmask her shyness when she got to college. She attended Wilson Junior College where she became a member of several organizations. She was in the NAACP youth council. She completed her associates degree here in 1936. Which made her aware of social, political, and racial events.

 At the age of 21 she met her future husband Henry Blakely. She said "with out a doubt when I layed eyes on him he is the man I'm going to marry". (Brooks,1970) They had a lot in common, for example he wrote poetry and stories also. On September 17, 1939 Henry and Gwendolyn were married in a simple wedding. They were married for thirty years. Their marriage was filled with happiness. They went on drives in old cars, picnics, movies, and of course had their ups and downs like all married couples do. They often read each others readings back and forth.

 On October 10, 1940 their son henry was born. During the 40's Gwendolyn wasn't producing as much poetry as she wanted to. In 1943 she won the Midwestern Writer's Conference poetry award in Chicago, Illinois. Two years later she received the Mademoiselle merit Award. The following year she won the American Academy of Letters Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946 and 1947. In 1949 she published her first book "Annie Allen" and received the Eunice Tiejtens Memorial award. Over the years Ms. Brooks overcame many accomplishments and was named the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

 In 1963 she obtained her first real teaching job. She was turned down once before by the Frank London Brown's Union Leadership Program because she did not have a bachelor's degree. She taught creative writing classes at Chicago's Columbia College, in Elmhurst College in Elmurst, Illinois, Northeastern Illinois State College, and the University of Wisconsin. She taught poetry, fiction, and writer's workshops. In 1969 Ms. Brooks was going to quit when she she was offered a position at the City College of New York as a Professor of the Arts. She took the position and became stressed and had a mild heart attack on Christmas day in 1971. This incident made her give up her teaching classes for good.

 In 1971 she took a trip to East Africa. She noticed different traits in the men in Africa verses the men in America. For example she discussed the way they walked. They were happy and took "pride" in themselves verses American men who portray themselves like "pimps". (Brooks, 1970) She also liked the submissive ways of the african women. During the trip she also discovered something about africans. They saw blacks as a threat. They often discluded them from their life style. She started feeling left out so she asked them to teach her their language, Swahili. After her trip she decided that there needs to be a Black World Day celebration to bring all blacks together. She feels that this day should be celebrated as opposed to Christmas.

 Gwendolyn was starting to miss her children. They were all she lived for. They were a major inspiration for her writings. Everyday of her life there was something they did that she loved and cherished. One of her poems entitled "Life for my child is simple and is Good" is about her son Henry Jr. Ms. Brooks said having children fulfilled her body's glory. Even though she had children Gwendolyn still found time to spend with them. Henry Sr. found it very disturbing that he and his wife were not together enough. She was traveling to much all of the time. Because of this they separated. They decided that being friends was the best thing for them. The separation ended completely in 1974 without any harsh feelings.

 In 1978 Gwendolyn was dealing with the slow death of her mother Keziah. Her brother Raymond died in 1976 and she was already dealing with this loss. She could not with stand another one. Keziah was losing interest in eating and taking her medication that had been prescribed for her hypertention. She wouldn't even go to church anymore. Gwendolyn had her mother brought to her house and supervised around the clock by a doctor and nurse. She was getting a little better and was responding well to the nurse. Finally while Gwendolyn was away at an engagement on March 14, 1975 Keziah died quietly in her sleep at the age of 88.

 On January 3, 1980, at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter, Ms. Brooks read at the White House along with other poets such as Sterling Brown, Josephine Jacobsen, and Robert Hayden. In 1985 she became the 29th and last appointment as Consultant in the poetry to the Library of Congress. She is still a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. On June 7,1987 she was awarded the Poet Laureate Award at the University of Chicago. In 1988 she was inducted to the Women's Hall of Fame. People have contributed many things to her. For example in Harvery, Illinois there is now the Gwendolyn Brooks Junior High School; the campus of Western Illinois University in Macomb there is the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center. And lastly her name was put on the Illinois State Library in Springfield. Since then Ms. Brooks has hosted conventions, given out awards and etc. She is still married to Henry Blakely and her daughter Nora is the founder and director of Chocolate Chips Theater Company in Chicago. And her, son Henry Jr. is a California software designer.

 Ms. Brooks has paved the way for many black women in education. She has given many black women like myself the courage to go on and see that we can be strong and reach for our goals if we try. I learned from her that you can have kids, and be married and still get through all of lifes triumphs. She is a professor at The University of Chicago and is still living strong and healthy at the age of 80.


Brooks, Gwendolyn.(1996)."Report From Part Two, Gwendolyn Brooks".Chicago. Third World Press

 Kent, George.(1990)."The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks.Kentucky.University of Kentucky

 Lee, Don.(1972)."Report From Part One, Gwendolyn Brooks.Michigan.Broadside Press

 Shaw, Harry.(1980)."Gwendolyn Brooks".Boston.Twayne Publishers