“When you use the term minority or minorities in reference to people, you’re telling them that they’re less than somebody else.”
“We are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
Gwendolyn Brooks was an incredibly important poet, the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, the first black woman to be poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, and the poet laureate of Illinois. Her poetry engaged with the civil rights struggle in a powerful and political ways. She published her first poem at age 13! Much of her early poetry focused on the experience of the black urban poor. She also wrote one book, Maud Martha, a series of vignettes about a black woman’s life, focusing in particular on her self-doubt and her grappling with conventional beauty standards that exclude her. As the civil rights movement progressed, Brooks’ work became increasingly political and concerned with a sense of black consciousness, cultural and political. Her poem, “Riot,” spoke in support of what she called the “healthy rebellion” unfolding, but some white critics accused her of “celebrating violence.” In short, Brooks was a prolific poet, unapologetically black, female, and political at a time when none of those identities were very accepted within the mainstream canon. Yet her work was so remarkable that many people and institutions had to recognize its worth in spite of their prejudices.