2013 Gwendolyn Brooks
20th Century American Poet
Issue Date: April 21, 2012
City: Los Angeles, CA
Printed By: Ashton Potter
Printing Method: Offset
Perforations: Die cut 10 ¾ x 11
The recipient of countless awards throughout her lifetime, Gwendolyn Brooks’ (1917-2000) greatest honor came when she was appointed poet laureate of Illinois, bringing the joy of poetry to a new audience.
The granddaughter of a runaway slave who fought in the Civil War, Brooks attended all-white, all-black, and integrated schools in Chicago, Illinois. These experiences gave her a unique perspective of the racial dynamics in the city that was a large part of her writing.
Brooks published her first poem at the age of 13 and composed about 75 poems by the time she was 16. Her poems included traditional ballads and sonnets as well as blues rhythms in free verse. Beginning in 1962, Brooks began teaching creative writing at several large universities.
When Brooks was appointed poet laureate of Illinois in 1968, she developed classes and contests for young children to help them see “the poetry” in their own lives. She taught them that poetry was not a formal activity saved for a small group, but an art form available to people from all walks of life.
Among Brooks’ many honors, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950, making her the first African-American to receive this esteemed award.