Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in Community

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000), one of the most prolific American poets of the twentieth century, was the first Black author to win a Pulitzer Prize in any category. Her career was marked by both her work’s accessibility and her concerns for social justice. Over more than five decades, Brooks’s connections to her community deepened along with her involvement in the international struggles against anti-Black racism, expanding the scope of her poetry and her influence on other artists and writers. She forged relationships with members of the Black Arts movement, the Black Power movement’s aesthetic counterpart, to advance work that speaks directly to the needs, hopes, and dreams of Black people. Brooks also collaborated with Black publishers of the 1960s and ’70s, dedicating herself to cultivating future writers. These exchanges opened up surprising spaces of teaching, learning, and empowerment. Objects on view in the gallery, some of which are drawn from Brooks’s personal library, reflect her roles as a poet, friend, and mentor, revealing the essential links between community and creative growth.

Unless otherwise noted, all objects are in the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum.

This online exhibition is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in Community on view January 28 through June 5, 2022, organized by Nicholas Caldwell, Belle da Costa Greene Curatorial Fellow, Department of Printed Books & Bindings.

Gwendolyn Brooks: A Poet’s Work in Community is made possible by Katharine J. Rayner, with generous support from the Caroline Morgan Macomber Fund.