The Honorable Bell Hooks - Speaking Freely
9/24/2017 2:57:57 PM
Bell Hooks Courtesy of
Writer, professor, and social critic, bell hooks is undeniably one of the most successful "cross-over" academics of the late 
twentieth century. Her books look at the function of race and gender in today's culture.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, bell hooks was raised in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, a small, segregated (separated by race) town in rural Kentucky. She recalled her neighborhood as a "world where folks were content to get by on a little, where Baba, mama's mother, made soap, dug fishing worms, set traps for rabbits, made butter and wine, sewed quilts, and wrung the necks of chickens." She later explained how this community turned the hardships created by racism (the idea that one race is superior to another) into a source of strength. The neighborhood where she grew up provided young Gloria with her resistance to racism, but it also provided her with the negative and positive experiences that would shape her feminism (support of equal rights for women).

Gloria was one of six siblings: five sisters and a baby brother. Her father worked as a janitor, and her mother, Rosa Bell Oldham Watkins, worked as a maid in the homes of white families. As a student at segregated public schools, hooks was taught by a dedicated group of teachers, mostly single black women, who helped to shape the self-esteem (satisfaction with oneself) of children of color. But the late 1960s Kentucky schools became desegregated. By the time she was ten, hooks had begun writing her own poetry and soon developed a reputation for her ability to recite poetry.

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