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Finding Aid to the Gwendolyn Brooks Papers, 1917-2000, (bulk 1950-1989)
BANC MSS 2001/83 z  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Gwendolyn Brooks papers
    Date (inclusive): 1917-2000,
    Date (bulk): 1950-1989
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2001/83 z
    Creator: Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917-2000
    Extent: Number of containers: 15 cartons, 1 box, 3 oversize boxes Linear feet: 23.75 linear ft.
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Gwendolyn Brooks Papers, 1917-2000 (bulk 1950-1989), document her personal life and career as a distinguished poet, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Poet Laureate of Illinois. The papers are divided into seven series: Correspondence, Writings, Professional Papers, Personal Papers, Clippings, Writings by Others, and Miscellaneous and consist of correspondence, manuscripts, flyers, announcements, scrapbooks, family papers, clippings, writings by others, and miscellaneous materials.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Gwendolyn Brooks Papers, BANC MSS 2001/83 z, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    Gwendolyn Brooks photograph collection, BANC PIC 2001.201--PIC

    Separated Material

    Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library. Photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library. Objects have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Brooks, Gwendolyn, 1917--Archives
    City Colleges of Chicago
    University of Chicago
    African American poets--20th century
    African American women poets--20th century
    African American women poets--Illinois--Chicago
    African Americans--Illinois--Chicago
    American poetry--20th century--African American authors
    American poets--20th century
    Arts, American--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    Chicago (Ill.)--In literature
    Blakely, Henry
    Blakely, Nora Brooks
    Brooks, Keziah C

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Gwendolyn Brooks Papers were purchased by The Bancroft Library in October 2000.


    No additions are expected.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Dean Smith and Jennifer Davis; completed in 2006.

    Biographical Information

    At the age of thirty-three, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Her legacy as one of the most influential poets of the Twentieth Century endures. Richard Wright, an early advocate of Brooks, once said that her poetry captured "the pathos of petty destinies, the whimper of the wounded, the tiny incidents that plague the lives of the desperately poor, and the problems of common prejudice" (Watkins, 2000, The New York Times).
    Brooks was born on June 7, 1917 in Topeka Kansas. Shortly after her birth, Brooks's parents, David and Keziah Brooks, relocated the family to South Side Chicago. She remained in South Side until her death. At a very early age, Brooks began to write poetry. When she was thirteen years old her first poem was published in the American Childhood Magazine. At a crucial point in her creative development, Brooks met Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson, both of whom encouraged her poetry writing. She was educated at several white, black, and integrated high schools in Chicago. During her school years, Brooks prolifically published her poems, largely as a regular contributor to the "Lights and Shadows" poetry column of the Chicago Defender. In 1936, Brooks graduated from Wilson Junior College.
    In 1938, Brooks and Henry Blakely were married. Their first child, Henry Jr., was born in 1940 and their daughter Nora was born in 1951. During this period, Brooks began to win critical acclaim for her poetry. She won the 1943 Midwestern Writer's Conference Poetry Award. Shortly thereafter, A Street in Bronzeville, her first book of poetry, was published by Harper and Row (1945). The instant critical acclaim this book received was followed by her first Guggenheim Fellowship award and a nomination to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1950, her second published collection, Annie Allen, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
    Brooks went on to publish additional books of poetry, a novel, an autobiography, essays, reviews, speeches, and a play. Following her Pulitzer Prize, she issued Maud Martha (1953), a novel that was praised by reviewers but did not gain wide readership. Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956) a collection of children's poetry, The Bean Eaters (1960), and Selected Poems (1963) followed the novel. One of her most popular volumes of poetry, We Real Cool, was released in 1966. With Broadside Press, a small black publisher founded by poet Dudley Randall, Brooks published Riot (1969), Family Pictures (1970), and her autobiography, Report from Part One (1972).
    Ms. Brooks's teaching career began at Columbia College in Chicago in 1963. Over the course of her career, she taught creative writing at many different institutions including: Northeastern Illinois State College, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, City College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
    In 1967, Brooks became involved in the Black Arts movement while attending the Fisk University Writers Conference in Nashville. At this point, she dropped her publisher Harper and Row to work with smaller publishing houses. While her poems always addressed social issues, her writing became markedly more concerned with the black experience in the 1960s.
    Brooks succeeded Carl Sandburg as poet laureate of Illinois in 1968 and remained in this post until her death. Her dedication to this role and to bringing poetry to the people of Illinois was deep. Brooks gave many public readings and was an active visitor to Chicago schools and prisons. Her poetry workshops and contests for young people were meant to inspire and teach children that poetry can be a part of every day life.
    Over the course of her career, Brooks received many honors. In 1976, she became the first black woman to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. The Library of Congress invited her to serve as poetry consultant in 1985. In 1994, the National Endowment for the Humanities named her its Jefferson Lecturer, the government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Brooks received honorary doctorate degrees from over 50 colleges and universities in recognition of her contribution to literature.
    Brooks died in her home in Chicago on December 3, 2000.

    Bibliography of Works by Gwendolyn Brooks

    • A Street in Bronzeville. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1945.
    • Annie Allen. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949.
    • Maud Martha. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953.
    • Bronzeville Boys and Girls. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956.
    • The Bean Eaters. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960.
    • Selected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
    • We Real Cool. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1966.
    • The Wall. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1967.
    • In the Mecca. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.
    • Riot. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1969.
    • Family Pictures. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970.
    • Aloneness. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971.
    • The World of Gwendolyn Brooks. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
    • Black Steel: Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971.
    • A Broadside Treasury. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971.
    • Jump Bad. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1971.
    • Report from Part One. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1972.
    • The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or What You Really Are, You Really Are . Chicago: Third World Press, 1974.
    • Beckonings. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1975.
    • Primer for Blacks. Chicago: Black Position Press, 1980.
    • To Disembark. Chicago: Third World Press, 1981.
    • Young Poets Primer. Chicago: Brooks Press, 1981.
    • Mayor Harold Washington and Chicago, the I Will City . Chicago: Brooks Press, 1983.
    • Very Young Poets. Chicago: Third World Press, 1983.
    • Blacks. Chicago: Third World Press, 1987.
    • Gottschalk and the Grande Tarantelle. Chicago, The David Company, 1988.
    • Winnie. Chicago: The David Company, 1988.

    Published Works on Gwendolyn Brooks

    • Bloom, Harold. Gwendolyn Brooks. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005.
    • Bolden, B. J. Urban Rage in Bronzeville: Social Commentary in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, 1945-1960 . Chicago: Third World Press, 1999.
    • Gayles, Gloria W. Conversations with Gwendolyn Brooks . Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
    • Hill, Christine M. Gwendolyn Brooks: "poetry is life distilled." Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2005.
    • Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
    • Madhubuti, Haki R., ed. Say That the River Turns: The Impact of Gwendolyn Brooks . Chicago: Third World Press, 1987.
    • Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice . Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1987.
    • Miller, R. Baxter. Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks: A Reference Guide . Boston: G. K.Hall, 1978.
    • Mootry, Maria K., and Smith, Gary. A Life Distilled: Gwendolyn Brooks, Her Poetry and Fiction . Urbana: UP of Illinois, 1987.
    • Shaw, Harry B. Gwendolyn Brooks. Boston: Twayne, 1980.
    • Wright, Stephen Caldwell. The Chicago Collective: Poems for and Inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks . Sanford, Florida: Christopher-Burghardt, 1990.
    • Wright, Stephen Caldwell. On Gwendolyn Brooks: Reliant Contemplation . Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1996.

    Scope and Content

    The Gwendolyn Brooks Papers, 1917-2000 (bulk 1950-1989), document her personal life and career as a distinguished poet, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Poet Laureate of Illinois. The papers are divided into seven series: Correspondence, Writings, Professional Papers, Personal Papers, Clippings, Writings by Others, and Miscellaneous and consist of correspondence, manuscripts, flyers, announcements, scrapbooks, family papers, clippings, writings by others, and miscellaneous materials.
    Correspondence, Series 1, includes letters and greeting cards from family, friends, and literary colleagues. The letters illuminate her involvement in the literary community; correspondents include Houston A. Baker, Jack Conroy, Paul Engle, Etheridge Knight, Don Lee (Haki Madhubuti), and Dudley Randall.
    Writings, Series 2, include poems, essays, reviews, and notes in manuscript and typescript form. Essays reflect Brooks's concerns with subjects such as black writers and the craft of poetry. The collection also contains some handwritten notes, a Langston Hughes memorial written by Brooks, and several articles about her writing.
    Professional Papers, Series 3, include awards, honors, posters, and flyers announcing readings by Brooks as well as correspondence relating to speaking engagements. The personal papers, Series 4, include records, miscellany, and family papers of her mother Keziah Brooks, husband Henry Blakely, and daughter Nora Blakely.
    Clippings, Series 5, Brooks's success as a poet, teacher, and speaker is well documented in the clippings files in addition to her interest in Black rights, writing and writers, Chicago, and many other subjects.
    Writings by Others, Series 6, includes publications that she collected in manuscript and published form written by poets, writers, school children, and prisoners. The final series, Series 7, Miscellaneous, includes diverse published materials and ephemera that Brooks collected from individuals and organizations.