Black Feminist Writer and Intellectual Bell Hooks Dies at 69

Black feminist author and intellectual bell hooks, whose pioneering work took on new urgency amid the racial justice protests that swept the United States in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, died Wednesday at her home in Berea, Kentucky, her sisters said.

Hooks was the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins, who used the lower case moniker to honor her grandmother.

“The family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened at the passing of our beloved sister,” sisters Gwenda Motley and Valeria Watkins said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Hooks died at home, surrounded by family and friends, they said. She was 69.

The fourth of seven siblings, hooks was born in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

She published her first book of poems in 1978, and by the end of her life had written 40 books that have been translated into 15 languages, her sisters said.

After studying and teaching at several universities, she returned to Kentucky, teaching at Berea College, which established the bell hooks center as an inclusive space for historically under-represented students.

Her work on racism, feminism, gender and other issues drew particular attention during the 2020 protests.

“The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors and international fame for her works as poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic and social activist,” her sisters wrote.

“We are proud to call her sister, friend, confidant and influencer.”

Tributes to hooks flooded social media.

“Devoured her work, taught her work and she taught me so much,” Maya Harris, an activist, author and the sister of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris wrote on Twitter. “An immeasurable legacy and teachings that will live on forever.”

Melina Abdullah, professor of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and one of the original Black Lives Matter organizers, said hooks’ work had a profound impact on her.

“She changed my life. Shaped me into who I am in so many ways,” Abdullah wrote. “Thank you, Sister, for your beautiful, powerful, life work and Spirit.”

The Washington Post reported that the cause of death was end stage renal failure, citing her family.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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