Gloria Jean Watkins, often known under her pseudonym, bell hooks, was a feminist activist, poet and author who covered the topics of race, gender and class.
Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, she attended segregated schools and eventually picked up the name bell hooks after her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, as a tribute. hooks then, while getting her undergraduate degree at Stanford University in California, began her first draft of, “Ain’t I A Woman,” at 19 years old. Soon after she would obtain her master’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then a doctorate in Literature at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Throughout the mid-1970s, hooks taught ethnic studies and English at the University of Southern California, Afro-American studies at Yale University in the 1980s, Women’s studies at Oberlin College and English at the City College of New York in the 1990s and 2000s.
During her lifetime she has published over 30 books, starting with her first publication being a poetry collection called, “And There We Wept,” published in 1978.
She finished her book, “Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism,” ten years later at 29 years old in 1981, becoming influential in its topics and discussion of oppression and impact of sexism on Black women throughout slavery. The book pioneered work of feminist theory, especially within the Black community.
hooks continued on her writings of feminism with her next book being published in 1984 called, “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,” arguing for the feminist movement to find a new direction through the current decade.
hooks died of kidney failure on Dec. 15, 2021, in Brea, Kentucky at the age of 69, but her voice from her books still stands today in the world and paved the way for feminism in the Black community.