Berea College in Kentucky, where hooks worked as a professor and founded the bell hooks Institute, confirmed her passing following an undisclosed illness.
“bell came into the life of many Bereans in 2004 to help the College get closer to its Great Commitments, particularly the Fifth Great Commitment focused on the kinship of all people and interracial education; the Sixth Great Commitment dedicated to gender equality, and the Eighth Great Commitment centered on service to Appalachia,” the school’s statement read.
“In 2017, bell dedicated her papers to Berea College, ensuring that future generations of Bereans will know her work and the impact she had on the intersections of race, gender, place, class, and sexuality,” the statement continued.
Born Gloria Jean Watkin on Sept. 25, 1952, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, she wrote and taught under the alias bell hooks in honor of her great-grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. She went to earn a B.A. in English from Stanford University in 1973 and an M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976. In 1983, she completed her doctorate in literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Her first published work, a collection of poems titled And There We Wept was released in 1978. Her first non-fiction book Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, released in 1981, became one of the most influential works in Black feminism, feminist theory, and gender studies. In her distinguished writing career, hooks penned over 40 books including Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black in 1988, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics in 1990, and Belonging: a Culture of Place in 2009.
In her illustrious career, Hooks received the Writer’s Award from the Lila-Wallace—Reader’s Digest Fund and was named one of our nation’s leading public intellectuals by The Atlantic Monthly, according to The Poetry Foundation.
She was also inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame,
As an academic, Hooks held positions as Professor of African-American Studies and English at Yale University, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and American Literature at Oberlin College, Distinguished Lecturer of English Literature at the City College of New York, before settling at Berea.
Throughout the length and breadth of her scholarship, Hooks challenged patriarchal and misogynistic norms in society, the effects of capitalism, race, and the perpetuation of systems of oppression and class domination.
We extend our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Bell Hooks.