Legendary black feminist author, educator, activist bell hooks died at the age of 69 on December 15, 2021 at her home in Kentucky, America announced her niece Ebony Motley on Twitter. bell hooks’ explorations of how race, gender, economics and politics intertwined helped shape academic and popular debates over the last 40 years, making her one of the important writers and intellectuals of our time.
According to the Associated Press (AP), additional details (about her death) were not immediately available, although her close friend Dr. Linda Strong-Leek said she had been ill for a long time.
Born in 1952, “bell hooks” was Gloria Watkins’ pen name which was derived from her maternal great-grandmother’s name. The iconic author had deliberately chosen to write her pen name, bell hooks, in lower case in order to shift the spotlight from herself to her ideas. hooks was an avid reader from a young age; sharing her love for books she said that books gave her “visions of new worlds” and forced her out of her “comfort zones.”
Starting in the 1970s, hooks was a profound presence in the classroom and on the page. She drew upon professional scholarship and personal history as she completed dozens of books that influenced countless peers and helped provide a framework for current debates about race, class and feminism. Some of her notable works include ‘Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism’, ‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center’ and ‘All About Love: New Visions’. She also wrote poetry and children’s stories and appeared in such documentaries as ‘Black Is … Black Ain’t’ and ‘Hillbilly’.
Rejecting the isolation of feminism, civil rights and economics into separate fields, she was a believer in community and connectivity and how racism, sexism and economic disparity reinforced each other. Among her most famous expressions was her definition of feminism, which she called “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.”
Throughout her life, hooks spent her career in the academy as she also taught at various institutes including Yale, Oberlin, and Berea College among others.
Some of hooks’ honors included an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, which champions diversity in literature.
Her early influences ranged from James Baldwin and fellow Kentucky author Wendell Berry to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Over the decades, hooks examined how stereotypes influence everything from music and movies (“the oppositional gaze”) to love, writing in ‘All About Love’ that “much of what we were taught about the nature of love makes no sense when applied to daily life.” She also documented at length the collective identity and past of Black people in rural Kentucky, a part of the state often depicted as largely white and homogeneous.
“We chart our lives by everything we remember from the mundane moment to the majestic. We know ourselves through the art and act of remembering,” she wrote in ‘Belonging: A Culture of Place’, published in 2009.
“I pay tribute to the past as a resource that can serve as a foundation for us to revise and renew our commitment to the present, to making a world where all people can live fully and well, where everyone can belong.”