Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was a pioneering poet who captured the joys and pains of the African-American experience in her work. Ms. Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950, the first Black person to do so.
Born June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kan., Brooks and her family relocated to Chicago early on. Her mother was a classically trained pianist who taught school because she couldn’t afford medical school. Her father, a janitor, also had medical school dreams but the costs were too great. Brooks’ parents instilled in her a love of reading and writing, nurturing her early poetry and crafting a space for her to create.
At 13, she had her first poem published in the American Childhood magazine. By age 16, she had written 75 poems and began to meet many of her idols. She met Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and James Wheldon Johnson as a high…
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