Black authors have been responsible for some of the most thought-provoking works of literature, and one of the prime people who helped make that a fact was renowned academic, feminist and social activist, bell hooks.
It saddens us to report today that the literary icon, responsible for the 1981 masterpiece Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, has died at the age of 69.
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The news was made official by Berea College, where she served as Distinguished Professor in Residence, confirming that hooks passed away at her home in Berea, Kentucky after battling an extended illness. Born in Hopkinsville on September 25, 1952 as Gloria Jean Watkins, the late author famously took on the pen name “bell hooks” — she made a note to always write it in lowercase letters — as a tribute to her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.
Her niche of writing about race, gender and sexuality amongst other socially conscious topics helped make hooks a household name in the eyes of Black elites. Books like her aforementioned Ain’t I a Woman?, All About Love from 2000 and even novels for children like 1999’s Happy to Be Nappy are just a handful of the over 30 books she wrote throughout her lifetime that will assure her legacy lives on.
More on some of the more recent accolades in her trailblazing life story below, via Berea College:
“bell came into the life of many Bereans in 2004 to help the College get closer to its Great Commitments, particularly the Fifth Great Commitment focused on the kinship of all people and interracial education; the Sixth Great Commitment dedicated to gender equality; and the Eighth Great Commitment centered on service to Appalachia.
In 2017, bell dedicated her papers to Berea College, ensuring that future generations of Bereans will know her work and the impact she had on the intersections of race, gender, place, class and sexuality. The following year, she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. Her selection elicited this tribute: “bell hooks is one of the most influential cultural critics of our time,” said Neil Chethik, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. ‘She has built a worldwide readership over 40 years with unique insights on such topics as love, race and power.’”
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We send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of bell hooks, as well as those who, like many of us, connected with her words as if she had written them exclusively for each individual who read her work.
Rewatch an impactful interview with bell hooks below from the popular CUNY show Speaking Freely that aired around the time of her 2002 book, Communion: The Female Search for Love:
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Pioneering Black Feminist Author bell hooks Dies At 69 was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
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