Born in 1917 in Topeka, Kansas, Gwendolyn Brooks, author of more than 20 books of poetry, published her first poem in a children's magazine at age 13. She grew up in Chicago, and she attended four different high schools, including the city's elite all-white high school as well as an all-Black institution, ultimately graduating from the integrated Englewood High School.
Her experience in these different settings played a significant role in her work, which frequently offered a commentary on race and class. Likely the envy of poets today, Brooks received critical acclaim for her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, published in 1945. She also was named one of Mademoiselle magazine's "Ten Young Women of the Year," won a Guggenheim Fellowship and became an American Academy of Arts and Letters fellow.
Five years later, on Sept. 27, 1950, she received the most coveted award of all — the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry — for her second volume, Annie Allen. She was the first African-American and one of few women to receive the honor.
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(Photo: PHIL VELASQUEZ/Landov)