Location: Brooks Park, Chicago
Artist: Margot Mcmahon
Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka on June 7, 1917, to David Anderson Brooks, the son of a runaway slave, and Keziah Corinne (née Wims), and raised in Chicago. Brooks began writing poetry in her teenage years and published her first poem in American Childhood magazine. She sent her early poems to both Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnston, and both elder poets responded with letters of encouragement. Brooks also became a regular contributor to the Chicago Defender’s “Lights and Shadows” poetry column when she was sixteen. She graduated from Woodrow Wilson Junior College in 1936. Brooks was the author of more than twenty books of poetry.
After going to a literary conference at Fisk University in 1967, which was also attended by other prominent poets of the Black Arts Movement, Brooks became an activist in the Black Power movement. She also started a poetry workshop from her home.
In 1968, Brooks was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois. In 1976, she became the first African American to join the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1985, she was the first Black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (now, poet laureate). She also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. Additionally, Brooks earned more than fifty honorary degrees during her career. In 1995, she was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.
Brooks spent her later years dedicated to public service. She conducted poetry readings at prisons and hospitals and attended annual poetry contests for school children, which she often funded. Brooks lived in Chicago until her death on December 3, 2000.
"We are eachother's harvest, we are eachothers business, we are eachothers magnitude and bond" - Gwendolyn Brooks
Her statue, by Margot McMahon was unveiled at Brooks Park on June 7 2018. The installation is designed to “both educate and invite public interaction” with Brooks’ life and work – both of which have been under appreciated by the wider public, McMahon said.