bell hooks, a pioneering feminist writer, critic, and activist, has died at the age of 69.
69-year-old author, poet, feminist and cultural critic bell hooks passed away on Wednesday. Her niece, Ebony Motley, first broke the news of her death, saying that she had passed away peacefully at home with her family and friends by her side. Berea College in Kentucky, where Hooks taught since 2004, said in a press release that she had been ill for some time and that she had passed away peacefully.
As the fourth of seven children, hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins on Sept. 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Ky., and chose to spell her name without capital letters as a way of minimizing her individuality. Bell Blair Hooks, her maternal great-grandmother, was the inspiration for her pen name.
She grew up in Christian County, Ky., where she attended segregated schools before attending Stanford University in California, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California at Santa Cruz for her undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Prior to returning to Kentucky to teach at Berea College, she taught at Stanford University, Yale University, Oberlin College in Ohio, and The City College of New York.
Hooks‘ first book of poetry, And There We Wept, was published in 1978. She has since written more than three dozen books in a variety of genres. Ain’t I a Woman? was a seminal work by her. In 1981, Black Women and Feminism were introduced. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center was published three years later and examined and criticized the feminist movement’s tendency to center and prioritize white women’s experiences..
Often, Hooks‘ work dealt with the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, and geographic location. Both her critical essay collection belonging: a culture of place and her poetry collection Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place focus on her native Appalachia and her experiences as a Black girl growing up there.
According to hooks, the act of loving has the power to transform a person’s life, and it’s a love that goes far beyond romantic sentiment. That kind of love is transformative, she continued, because it pushes people to grow as people and as citizens at the same time. Civil rights movement is a movement for social justice that was rooted in love and politicized the notion of love, which said, “Real love will change you.” I’m so moved whenever I think about it.”
Continuing, she remarked: “In every place I go, people want to feel closer to each other. They want to be more involved in the lives of those around them. They want to feel a greater sense of belonging to the world around them. Love allows us to see the stranger as a part of ourselves, and this allows us to connect with others. Let’s bring back a kind of utopian focus on love, not unlike the kind of hippie focus on love.’ The ’60s’ emphasis on love had its silly sentimental aspects but also its life-changing dimensions, as I always tell people. Think of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner when you think of the love of justice that drove three young people, two Jews, one African-American, to travel to the South and fight for justice. In my opinion, that’s a wonderful quality of love… I tell this to young people that we can love in a way that transforms the political world in which we live..”