Revolutionary feminist thinker Bell Hooks dies at 69

bell hooks, the author, educator and revolutionary activist whose explorations of how race, gender, economics and politics have helped shape academic and popular debates over the past 40 years, has died. She was 69 years old.

In a statement released by William Morrow Publishers, the Hooks family announced that they passed away on Wednesday in Berea, Ky., Where Berea College’s Bell Hooks Center is located. Further details were not immediately available, although her close friend Dr Linda Strong-Leek said she had been ill for a long time.

“She was a giant, no nonsense person who lived by her own rules and spoke her own truth at a time when black people, and women in particular, did not feel empowered to do so,” said Dr Strong. -Leek, a former provost. of Berea College, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “It was a privilege to know her, and the world is a lesser place today because she is gone. There will never be more bell hooks.

From the 1970s, hooks were a deep presence in the classroom and on the page. She has drawn on professional scholarship and personal history by writing dozens of books that have influenced countless peers and helped provide a framework for current debates on race, class, and feminism. His notable works included “Ain’t I a Woman? Black women and feminism ”,“ Feminist theory: from the margin to the center ”and“ All about love: new visions ”. She has also written poetry and children’s stories and appeared in documentaries such as “Black Is… Black Ain’t” and “Hillbilly”.

Rejecting the isolation of feminism, civil rights, and economics as separate areas, she believed in community and connectedness and how racism, sexism and economic disparities reinforce each other. Among her most famous expressions was her definition of feminism, which she called “a movement to end sexism, exploitation and sexist oppression.”

Ibram X. Kendi, Roxane Gay, Tressie McMillan Cottom and others cried the hooks. Author Saeed Jones noted that his death came just a week after the loss of famous black author and critic Greg Tate. “Everything seems so sharp,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Hooks’ honors included an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, which champions diversity in literature. She has taught at many schools including Yale University, Oberlin College, and City College of New York. She joined the faculty of Berea College in 2004 and, a decade later, founded the center that bears her name, where “many and varied expressions of difference can flourish.” A former Yale student, author Min Jin Lee, would write in The New York Times in 2019 that in Hooks’ classroom “everything was so intense and crackling like the heaviness of the air before a long-awaited rain.”

hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in the isolated town of Hopkinsville, Ky., and later gave herself the pen name bell hooks in honor of her maternal great-grandmother, while also spelling the words in lowercase to establish their own identity and their own way of thinking. She loved to read from a young age, remembering how books gave her “visions of new worlds” that forced her out of her “comfort zones”.

His early influences ranged from James Baldwin and fellow Kentucky author Wendell Berry to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

“Martin Luther King was my teacher in understanding the importance of a beloved community. He had a deep awareness that those involved in oppressive institutions will not change logics and practices of domination without engaging with those who are struggling for a better way, ”she said in an interview published in Appalachian Heritage in 2012.

She majored in English at Stanford University and received an MA in English from the University of Wisconsin. It was the 1970s, the height of Second Wave feminism, but the Hooks – “this daring young black woman from rural Kentucky” – felt left out of the movement and its “white, female comrades” . She was still in college when she began writing “Ain’t I a Woman,” named after a speech by Sojourner Truth and a now canonical look at how “the devaluation of black femininity occurred as a result of the sexual exploitation of black women. during slavery.

Over the following decades, Hooks examined how stereotypes influence everything from music and movies (“the opposing gaze”) to love, writing in “All About Love” that “much of what is taught us about the nature of love makes no sense when applied to everyday life. She has also extensively documented the collective identity and past of black people in rural Kentucky, part of the state. often described as largely white and homogeneous.

“We trace our lives through everything we remember, from the mundane moment to the majestic. We know each other through the art and act of remembering, ”she wrote in“ Belonging: A Culture of Place, ”published in 2009.

“I pay homage to the past as a resource that can serve as a basis for us to revise and renew our commitment to the present, to create a world where everyone can live fully and well, where everyone can belong. “

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