In Poetry to the Library of Congress In 1985. Secondly Elizabeth Brooks was born on June 7, 1917, in Topeka, Kansas, the first child of David Anderson Brooks and Sheikh Whims. Her mother was a former school teacher who had chosen that field because she could not afford to attend medical school. Family lore held that her paternal grandfather had escaped slavery to Join Union forces during the American Civil War. )When Brooks was six weeks old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois during the Great Migration; from then on, Chicago was her hometown. Her home life was stable and loving, although she encountered racial prejudice In her neighborhood and In schools. She attended Hyde Park High School, the leading Brooks eventually attended an integrated school, Englewood High School. In 1936 she graduated from Wilson Junior College.
These four schools gave her a perspective on racial dynamics in the city that continued to influence her work. Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine at the age of thirteen. By the time she was sixteen, she had compiled a portfolio of around 75 published poems. At seventeen, she started submitting her work to “Lights and Shadows”, the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Her poems, many published while she attended Wilson Junior College, ranged in style from rotational ballads and sonnets to poems using blues rhythms In free verse.
Her characters were often drawn from the poor of the Inner city. After falling to obtain a position with the Chicago Defender, Brooks took a series of secretarial Jobs. By 1941 , Brooks was taking part in poetry workshops. A particularly influential one was organized by Nines Cunningham Stark, an affluent white woman with a strong literary background. The group dynamic of Starks workshop, all of whose participants were African American, energize Brooks. Her poetry began to be taken seriously.
In 1943 she received an award for poetry from the Midwestern Writers’ Conference. Brooks’ first book of poetry, A Street in Brownsville (1945), published by Harper and Row, earned Instant critical acclaim. She received her first Guggenheim Fellowship and was Included as one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle Magazine. With her second book of poetry, Annie Allen (1950), she became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry: she also was awarded Poetry After President John F.
Kennedy invited Brooks to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962, she began a second career teaching creative writing. She taught at Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Brooks died of cancer at the age of 83 on December 3, 2000, at her home on Chicago South Side. She is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois.