On this quiet Wednesday, writing and social justice circles are left stunned by the death of an award-winning author and social activist. Berea College in Kentucky confirmed that bell hooks passed away from an unspecified illness today at the age of 69.
The Kentucky native became a leading activist during the feminist and social justice movements of the 1980s when she released her first book, “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism.” The author—whose birth name was Gloria Jean Watkins—chose to write under the penname “bell hooks” to honor her great-grandmother. She also specified that her penname stay lowercased to distinguish herself from her grandmother and force readers to focus on her words, not her identity.
She taught at many different institutions (including the University of Southern California and Yale) before settling at Berea College in Kentucky. Her curriculum emphasized work that was anti-white supremacist, anti-capitalist, and anti-patriarchal. She focused on teaching students about the history of sexism and racism towards black women and became a leading postmodern thinker for doing so. She defined feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression,” a statement that is often used by feminists today.
She taught as a Distinguished Professor at the Kentucky college since 2004 and truly emphasized “the intersections of race, gender, place, class and sexuality.” Click here to read Berea College’s statement on bell hooks.
bell hooks’ death follows close behind the death of another author, Anne Rice. You can read our memorial about her here.
FEATURED IMAGE VIA BEREA COLLEGE