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PHOTO ESSAY

Influential Black Women

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Gwendolyn Brooks, Miami Book Fair International, 1985

Courtesy of Miami Dade College Archive

Sometimes working towards social change takes the shape of direct political action. Sometimes it comes in the form of social commentary and criticism expressed through art, music, and literature. The poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks has a unique perceptiveness about black urban experiences that encourages activism through its frank descriptions of black social reality. Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Annie Allen in 1950. As the sixties arrived, Brooks' poetry became more political. Her book The Bean Eaters was in many ways a call to activism. In the 1960s and 1970s Brooks was a strong presence in the Black Arts Movement—a movement deeply rooted in racial politics. Brooks' poetry did not shy away from the political, rather it engaged it. She addressed and blended history and current events into her works—evoking historical figures and moments such as Malcolm X., Medgar Evers, Harold Washington, the integration of the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

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