Beloved, Black feminist bell hooks dies

Beloved poet, author, feminist and professor — bell hooks — has died at the age of 69. She passed away in her home after an “extended illness,” according to representatives. Berea College, the university at which she taught, released the following statement: “Berea College is deeply saddened about the death of bell hooks, Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country’s foremost feminist scholars.” Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, hooks took her pen name from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She opted to lowercase her name so readers would focus on the “substance of books, not who I am,” she said. The focus of hooks’ writing was the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender, and what she described as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. She published more than 30 books and numerous scholarly articles, appeared in documentary films, and participated in public lectures. Her work addressed race, class, gender, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism. In 2014, she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. She was born on September 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, a small, segregated town in Kentucky, to a working-class African-American family. Watkins was one of six children born to Rosa Bell Watkins (née Oldham) and Veodis Watkins. Her father worked as a janitor and her mother worked as a maid in the homes of Caucasian families. An avid reader, Watkins was educated in racially segregated public schools, later moving to an integrated school in the late 1960s. She graduated from Hopkinsville High School before obtaining her BA in English from Stanford University in 1973, and her MA in English from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976. During this time, at 24 Watkins was writing her book Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, which was published in 1981. In 1983, after several years of teaching and writing, she completed her doctorate in English at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1987, with a dissertation on author Toni Morrison. Ms. hooks’ academic […]

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