Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center

Brooks Legacy

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1917 and lived in Chicago since she was an infant. Brooks graduated from Englewood High School and received her Associates Degree from Wilson Junior College. She taught in the University of Wisconsin (Madison), City College of New York, Columbia College of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, and Chicago State University. In the late 1930's, Brooks met poet and writer Henry Blakely and they were married in 1939. They were married 57 years until his death in 1996. The couple had a son, Henry Blakely III, and daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely.

On Sunday, December 3, 2000, internationally recognized poet Gwendolyn Brooks passed away at her home in Chicago, Illinois surrounded by family and friends. She was 83. Brooks was the first Black person to receive the distinguished Pulitzer Prize. This award was given in 1950 for Brooks' volume of poetry, Annie Allen. In 1968, Brooks was named Poet Laureate of Illinois, succeeding the late Carl Sandburg.

Ms. Brooks was the first recipient of Western Illinois University's Honorary Doctorate in June of 1971. In the previous year (1970), the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center was dedicated to honor her for her commitment, encouragement, humanitarian service and her personal inspiration to African American students at Western Illinois University.

Brooks visited WIU numerous times since the dedication, the most recent September 29, 1999, to celebrate the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center's 30th anniversary. The same day, Ms. Brooks was given a key to the City by the Mayor of Macomb.

Chicago State University is the official repository for Gwendolyn Brooks works.