bell hooks

#womenshistoryProfilesMarch 15, 2022

The words of bell hooks changed lives. Her explorations into topics like feminism, intersectionality, capitalism, and gender, revealed a refreshing perspective and level of nuance that was new to the conversations in social justice. 

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in the working-class South, hooks chose her pen name to honor her late grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She chose lower case letters for her name to shift the focus from her as a person and toward centering the ideas represented in her work.

Hooks, a professor at Yale, Stanford, and City College New York, penned 40 books on topics such as patriarchy, class dominance, oppression, gender, and sexuality. Her work was grounded in the belief that communication and literacy were vital to our ability to recognize society’s persistent gender inequalities. She believed that the ability to read and write, coupled with critical thinking, was the bedrock of the feminist movement. And many agreed. 

Her work, which has been translated into more than 15 languages, has been credited with creating a new and empowered generation in Black feminism and feminisim as a whole.  hooks pushed people to dig deeper into their own belief systems and thought patterns.

“She made certain concepts on the subjects of race, feminist, gender, class and love accessible to a public beyond academia while being unrelenting in her advocacy for Black people and particularly for Black women in the pursuit of a better, more just society for everyone,” said Myriam J.A. Chancy, humanities chair at Scripps College. 

After joining the faculty at Berea College in Kentucky, hooks founded the bell hooks center to create an inclusive space where historically underrepresented students could go for affirming educational experiences. Her work graces classrooms, cultural circles, and learning institutions worldwide. 

hooks passed away in December 2021.

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