bell hooks, Influential Black Feminist and Writer, Dead at 69

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The writer, scholar, and activist bell hooks, known for her influential work on Black feminism, died on December 15 at 69. She died surrounded by family and friends at her home in Berea, Kentucky, after an illness, according to a press release published by her niece, Ebony Motley. hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Christian County, Kentucky, where she grew up before leaving to attend Stanford University. By 1981, she had taken on her pen name — after her great-grandmother, in lowercase to deflect personal attention — and published her book Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, titled after a speech by Sojourner Truth. The book became regarded as an important study in intersectionality for its focus on the historic marginalization of Black women. hooks went on to earn a doctorate in literature from the University of California Santa Cruz in 1983, where she wrote her dissertation on Toni Morrison.

hooks wrote over 40 books throughout her nearly five-decade career, including poetry and children’s literature alongside theory and criticism. Her bibliography also includes Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life with Cornel West, Teaching to Transgress: Education As the Practice of Freedom, Belonging: A Culture of Place, and All About Love. She most recently published Uncut Funk: A Contemplative Dialogue with the late Marxist theorist Stuart Hall in 2018. In addition to her writing, hooks taught at Berea College, where she founded the bell hooks center in 2010.

Many writers and intellectuals influenced by hooks paid tribute on social media following news of her death. “She was an intellectual giant, spiritual genius & freest of persons!” tweeted West, alongside photos with hooks. “Her loss is incalculable,” author Roxane Gay tweeted. The writer Tressie McMillan Cottom tweeted a quote from Feminist Theory, writing, “The entirety of my intellectual and creative project is this.”

bell hooks, Influential Activist and Writer, Dead at 69