Acclaimed author bell hooks has died at the age of 69. The scholar passed away on Wednesday morning (Dec. 15) at her home surrounded by close family and friends. A statement has been issued by her family confirming her death to the public.
“The family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved sister on December 15, 2021. The family honored her request to transition at home with family and friends by her side,” it reads. “The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her work as a poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic, and social activist. We are proud to just call her sister, friend, confidant, and influencer.”
Born Gloria Jean Watkin in Hopkinsville, Ky. on Sept. 25, 1952, she went on to study at Stanford University in California, before earning a master’s in English at the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In 2004, bell hooks joined Berea College, a private liberal arts institution in her home state, as Distinguished Professor in Residence. In 2010, the school opened the bell hooks Institute at Berea College which according to the Lexington Herald-Leader is home to her collection of contemporary African-American art, personal artifacts, and copies of her books published in other languages.
“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,” the school said in a statement.
“She was one of my dearest friends and the world is a lesser place today without her,” said one of her Berea friends, Linda Strong-Leek to the Herald-Leader.
bell hooks published her first book of poems And There We Wept in 1978. She continued to publish her acclaimed book Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism in 1981. Her notable career in literary spaces continued for decades with more than 40 books including essays, poetry, and children’s books on subjects including feminism, identity, gender, race, culture, and politics. Her penname is in honor of her great-grandmother written in all lowercase letters.
Her honors and awards include the following: American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1991, for Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics; Writer’s Award, Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund, 1994; Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2001, for Happy to Be Nappy; Children’s Book of the Year designation, Bank Street College, 2002, for Homemade Love; Hurston Wright Legacy Award nomination, 2002, for Salvation: Black People and Love.