bell hooks, writer, poet of Black women's experiences, dead at 69

She wrote more than 40 books.

December 15, 2021, 3:26 PM

Black feminist writer and poet bell hooks died Wednesday at her home in Berea, Kentucky, at the age of 69, according to a statement from her family.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins on Sept. 25, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Watkins published under the pseudonym bell hooks -- a name inspired by her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks -- to keep focus on her work and ideas rather than on her identity, she said in an interview with The Sandspur in 2013.

Watkins had been fighting an illness and died with family and friends at her side, the family said.

"The family is honored that Gloria received numerous awards, honors, and international fame for her works as a poet, author, feminist, professor, cultural critic, and social activist. We are proud to just call her sister, friend, confidant, and influencer," her family said in their statement.

Watkins studied English at Stanford University and earned a Master's from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz after attending segregated schools before college.

Her first book, "Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism," focuses on the impact of sexism on Black women. She wrote more than 40 books with the main emphasis on feminist theory and Black womanhood. Those books have been published in over 15 different languages.

Writer Kevin Powell posted on Instagram about how transformative she was in his life.

PHOTO: bell hooks poses for a portrait, Dec. 16, 1996, in New York.
bell hooks poses for a portrait, Dec. 16, 1996, in New York.
Karjean Levine/Getty Images

"40 plus books in 40plus years and so many lives and minds and souls touched by her words, even those who may have disagreed, even those who may have angered bell, or she them. bell was many many energies, many many ways of being, and hers was a life for the ages. I will miss her voice, her smile, the way she always kept me on my toes, the way she always said both my names. I cry as I write this, hard because this is hard." Powell said.

In 2014, Watkins founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College after being a teacher there since 2004. The institute serves as a collection of contemporary African American art and storage of her books and poems.

"The bell hooks Institute at Berea College will continue to be a valuable and informative beacon to her life's work, continuing to remind humans that life is all about love. In her words, 'To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds,'" read a statement from Berea College.

Watkins' family announced that a ceremony honoring her life will be held at a later date.