Poetry has been around for many centuries, and there are many different types of poets. Poets often write about personal experiences. Gwendolyn Brooks was a 20th century poet and the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize.
David Brooks and Keziah Brooks gave birth to Gwendolyn Elizabeth on June 7, 1917, in Topeka Kansas (Cosby 719). She and her family moved to Chicago where she was raised in a community called Bronzeville. She grew up listening to stories, told by her father, about her freedom fighting grandfather (Brooks 225). As a child she lacked social and athletic abilities, light skin, and a good grade of hair. She had developed almost no positive social relationship with her peers (Showalter 37). She had discovered that she did not possess the principal requisites for popularity. She quietly resigned herself as the outsider. After she had no one to turn to and was hurt be such rejection, she found solace in her writing. Brooks's parents were always supportive of her literary ambitions (Magill 450).
As a young child her favorite poems were Emily Dickinson, Keats, and Shelley (Kort 26). As a high school student Brooks sent some poems to James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, both of whom encouraged her and praised her work (Podolsky 215). By the age of sixteen she had a substantial portfolio with seventy five published poems (Williams 1).
As an adult Brooks attended Wilson Junior college for two years, where she was active in the NAACP. Brooks received help and encouragement in a practical way when she was given the opportunity to take part in a poetry class. Brooks learned much about modern poetry and had the opportunity to discuss her poetry seriously (Showalter 169).
While attending the poetry workshops Brooks produced poems that would be in her first volume of poetry. Brooks's second collection, Annie Allen, was an experimental volume for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.