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Gwendolyn Brooks Collection

Overview

Abstract

Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Correspondence

Writings

Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Files

Photos and Scrapbooks

Drawings

Calendars

Public Engagements

Contests and Scholarships

Teaching Materials

Programs, Broadsides, Posters, and Ephemera

David Company Records

Financial Records

Legal, Medical, and Real Estate Records

Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Realia/Artifacts

Gwendolyn Brooks Library

Sheet Music

LPs

Newspapers and Magazines

Works of Others

Henry Blakely Papers

Keziah Wims Brooks Papers

Brooks-Blakely Family Papers

Oversize Items

Supplementary Material



Contact us about this collection

Gwendolyn Brooks Collection, 1909-2003 | Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

By Meg Hixon, Siobhan McKissic, Ruthann Mowry, Dana Miller, and RBML Staff

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Collection Overview

Title: Gwendolyn Brooks Collection, 1909-2003Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Predominant Dates:bulk 1960-2000

ID: 01/01/MSS00086

Primary Creator: Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917-2000)

Extent: 200.0 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 09/19/2013

Subjects: Poets, American - 20th century

Languages: English

Abstract

This collection consists of a variety of materials related to Gwendolyn Brooks, a Black American poet from Chicago, Illinois.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) was an American poet and educator born in Topeka, Kansas and raised on the South Side of Chicago. In 1950, Brooks was the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize in any category, receiving the award in Poetry for Annie Allen (1949). At the core of this book is "The Anniad," an epic poem that details the life of a young woman in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Brooks was a beloved mentor to many poets and artists from the Black Arts movement, and started the Illinois Poet Laureate Awards to encourage poetry writing amongst young people. During her life, Brooks received numerous accolades for her work, including her appointment as Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (now the Poet Laureate of the United States) in 1985.

This record does not contain collection content for the first series of the Gwendolyn Brooks Collection. Series 1, which contains alphabetical correspondence and correspondence files, was separated from the rest of the collection in an attempt to improve load times. Click here to view series 1 (temporarily MS00086a).

Collection Historical Note

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks was born to parents David Anderson and Keziah Wims Brooks on June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas. A few weeks later, her family moved to Chicago where she would live for the rest of her life. Brooks began writing at an early age and was encouraged by her mother saying, "You are going to be the lady Paul Laurence Dunbar." When she was 13, her poem "Eventide" was published in the children's magazine American Childhood [1]. By the time she graduated high school, Brooks had published over one hundred poems in the "Lights and Shadows" poetry column of the Chicago Defender [2]. After high school, Brooks graduated from a two-year program at Wilson Junior College [3]. In 1939, she married Henry Blakely, Jr. whom she met after joining the Chicago NAACP Youth Council. They soon had their first child, Henry III, and later their daughter, Nora.

Early in her career, Brooks was encouraged by poet James Weldon Johnson and Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright [4]. In her work, Brooks drew inspiration from her life and surroundings in Chicago. Her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville (1945), received praise for its authentic portraits of the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Her second collection of poems, Annie Allen (1949), chronicles the life of a young Black Bronzeville girl. It was for this book that Brooks won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, making her the first Black person to win the award in any category [5].

In the 1960s, Brooks work became more overtly political as she became close with activists and writers involved in the Black Arts Movement, a group of artists whose work reflected the cultural side of the growing Black Power movement [6]. She became especially close with Haki Madhubuti, to whom she became both a mentor and a mother figure. Soon Brooks began working exclusively with Black publishers, especially Broadside Press, founded by her close friend Dudley Randall, and Third World Press, founded by Madhubuti. In the 1980s, Brooks also established her own imprint called The David Company.

Throughout her long career, Brooks published more than twenty books of poetry, including The Bean Eaters (1960), Selected Poems (1963), In the Mecca (1968), Riot (1969), Family Pictures (1970), Aloneness (1971), Beckonings (1975), To Disembark (1981), Black Love (1982), The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986), Blacks (1987), Gottschalk and the Grand Tarantelle (1988), Winnie (1988), and Children Coming Home (1991). She also published one novel, Maud Martha (1953), as well as children's literature such as Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956) and The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves (1974). Brooks also published two autobiographies, Report from Part One (1972), and Report from Part Two (1995).

In addition to her writing, Brooks taught poetry and creative writing at numerous colleges and universities. In 1990, the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing was founded at Chicago State University, where Brooks served as distinguished professor and writer-in-residence [7]. Brooks influenced generations of writers, not only with her words, but with her actions. For most of the year, she traveled the country to perform her poetry for children of all ages as well as at universities, public libraries, hospitals, and prisons. As she especially encouraged young poets, Brooks sponsored youth poetry awards for over thirty years. Renowned for her generosity, Brooks dedicated her life to promoting the value of poetry and inspiring young writers.

Brooks was the recipient of more than seventy-five honorary doctorates and countless accolades [8]. In 1968, she was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois, a position which she held until her death in 2000 [9]. In 1985, Brooks was selected for an honorary one-year term as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress [10]. She received lifetime achievement awards from both the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989 and the National Book Foundation in 1994. Brooks then received the National Endowment for the Humanities' highest honor when she was named the 1994 Jefferson Lecturer. The next year, Brooks received the National Medal of Arts.

Today, Gwendolyn Brooks' legacy persists as one of the most significant poets of the twentieth century, because of both her contribution to American literature and her kindness and generosity, especially toward young poets and authors of color.

Subject/Index Terms

Poets, American - 20th century

Administrative Information

Repository: Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Acquisition Source: Nora Brooks Blakely

Related Materials:

Celebrating Brooks @ 100

Gwendolyn Brooks Supplementary Materials

Gwendolyn Brooks Collection (Sc MG 271) | New York Public Library

Gwendolyn Brooks Papers (BANC MSS 2001/83 z) | University of California, Berkeley

Dudley Randall Papers (2017014 Aa 2) | University of Michigan

Sterling Plumpp Collection (MUM00368) | University of Mississippi

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid is experiencing ongoing revision, beginning in June 2023.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Writings],
[Series 3: Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Files],
[Series 4: Photos and Scrapbooks],
[Series 5: Drawings],
[Series 6: Calendars],
[Series 7: Public Engagements],
[Series 8: Contests and Scholarships],
[Series 9: Teaching Materials],
[Series 10: Programs, Broadsides, Posters, and Ephemera],
[Series 11: David Company Records],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[Series 14: Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Realia/Artifacts],
[Series 15: Gwendolyn Brooks Library],
[Series 16: Sheet Music],
[Series 17: LPs],
[Series 18: Newspapers and Magazines],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[Series 24: Supplementary Material],
[All]

Series 5: DrawingsAdd to your cart.
Box 371Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Ink drawing of a young boy, 1933Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_001
Folder 2: Stylized graphite drawing of a woman, 1933Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_003
Folder 3: Stylized graphite drawing of a woman, 1933Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_004
Folder 4: “Roscoe King,” graphite drawing, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_005
Folder 5: “Roscoe King,” graphite drawing, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_008
Folder 6: “Mama,” crayon and graphite drawing, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_006
Folder 7: “Frederic March,” graphite drawing, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_007
Folder 8: Woman arranged with hair to one side, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_02_001
Folder 9: Woman with a wrap neckline, crayon drawing, 1934Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_02_004
Folder 10: “Girls,” graphite drawing with poems, 1937Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_02_002
Folder 11: Ink drawing of a woman, 1979Add to your cart.
00086_02_02_01_002
Folder 12: “Sagacious Suzie,” ink drawings with a poem, undatedAdd to your cart.
00086_02_02_02_003
Folder 13: Single head graphite drawing, undatedAdd to your cart.
00086_02_02_02_005. Contains a separation slip.
Folder 14: “Drawings Gwendolyn Brooks” envelope, undatedAdd to your cart.
Box 372Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Writings],
[Series 3: Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Files],
[Series 4: Photos and Scrapbooks],
[Series 5: Drawings],
[Series 6: Calendars],
[Series 7: Public Engagements],
[Series 8: Contests and Scholarships],
[Series 9: Teaching Materials],
[Series 10: Programs, Broadsides, Posters, and Ephemera],
[Series 11: David Company Records],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[Series 14: Gwendolyn Brooks Personal Realia/Artifacts],
[Series 15: Gwendolyn Brooks Library],
[Series 16: Sheet Music],
[Series 17: LPs],
[Series 18: Newspapers and Magazines],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[[information restricted]],
[Series 24: Supplementary Material],
[All]


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