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Gwendolyn Brooks Biography

(1917–2000), A Street in Bronzeville, Annie Allen, The Bean Eaters, In the Mecca, Aurora

American poet, born in Topeka, Kansas. She grew up in Chicago, where she was educated at Wilson Junior College; the city, where she has spent most of her life, and its black community are central to most of her work. She has held visiting posts at various American universities and was Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress in 1985 and 1986. A Street in Bronzeville (1945) was her first collection of verse; other early publications include Annie Allen (1949), for which she became the first black American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and The Bean Eaters (1960). Such work brings a lucidly objective social-realism and poised technical accomplishment to its fundamentally humane treatments of a wide spectrum of urban experiences. Following her participation at a black writers' conference in 1967, her poetry took on a new freedom of form and assumed a tone of unequivocal political engagement on behalf of African-Americans; among her later collections are In the Mecca (1968), Aurora (1972), The Near-Johannesburg Boy (1986), and Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantelle (1988). Brooks is also the author of the novel Maud Martha (1953), which deals with a young black woman's struggle against racial discrimination, and the impressionistic autobiography of Report from Part One (1972). Representative editions of her work are Selected Poems (1963) and the miscellany entitled The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (1971). G. E. Kent's A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks appeared in 1990.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bridgnorth Shropshire to Anthony Burgess [John Anthony Burgess Wilson Burgess] Biography