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Centennial Brooks, April 6-8, 2017

The University of Chicago will celebrate the legacy of acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks with events throughout the spring, including a major gathering of scholars, writers and musicians from April 6-8.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth, Centennial Brooks will include a scholarly conference and a celebration of the life and poetry of the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize. Presented by the University of Chicago in partnership with the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Poetry Foundation.

Born in Topeka, Kan., Brooks moved to Chicago as a child. A passionate writer, Brooks published her first poem at age 13, and by the time she was 17 her work frequently appeared in the Chicago Defender. Brooks spent the early part of her career mostly as a typist for lawyers, but was invited by the novelist Frank London Brown to teach a course in American literature at the University of Chicago—the start of a long career in higher education. Closely associated with Chicago’s South Side, in particular the Bronzeville neighborhood, Brooks’ poetry reflected the realities of urban black Chicago.

 “Centennial Brooks has twin aims, reflecting two aspects of the many-faceted work of Gwendolyn Brooks,” said John Wilkinson, chair of creative writing and the Committee on Poetics, who led the Centennial Brooks planning group. “First, we seek to recognize Gwendolyn Brooks as one of the great American poets of the 20th century. Second, we seek to honor Gwendolyn Brooks’ self-identification as a black poet, and to show her present influence as poet and cultural activist on black culture in the United States and in the wider African diaspora.”

The Centennial events at UChicago are presented alongside Our Miss Brooks 100, a city-wide program for Chicagoans of all ages interested in Brooks’ poetry and life. 

View the schedule.

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