Gwendolyn Brooks
(1917 - 2000)

Gwendolyn Brooks was a prodigious African American poet.

She was the poet laureate of the state of Illinois and the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress and the first black woman to hold these positions.

Her poetry offered critical insight into the lives of Chicago’s African American community.

Music: ‘Mecca Flat Blues’ performed by Frank Goudie & Burt Bales

Poetry as Politics

An emphasis on the power of Black lives – especially the lives of Black Chicagoans – is a thread that runs through all of Brooks’s work.

In the 1960s, Brooks was energized by the Civil Rights movement and the Black Arts Movement.

Here you can listen to Brooks read a portion of her poem ‘The Ballad of Pearl May Lee.’

City of Yeast and Yield

Much of Brooks’s poetry captured the dynamism of Chicago’s African American Communities, especially the Bronzeville neighborhood.

Bronzeville was a heady mix of hope and despair.

Despite poverty and segregation Black artists transformed Bronzeville into a vibrant hub of the arts.

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