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University of Illinois Acquires Gwendolyn Brooks Archives


The literary archives of poet Gwendolyn Brooks are now housed on the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus.

Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize and the long-time poet laureate of the state of Illinois. After her death in 2000, she left behind more than 150 boxes with manuscripts, drafts, correspondence and other materials.

Valerie Hotchkiss, the director of the U of I’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, said the first box she opened up contained newspaper clippings on other poets.

“That’s interesting to see what mattered to her, whose obituary she was cutting out, whose reviews she was cutting out,” Hotchkiss said. “This is a different age when people didn’t just jot down a note on their iPhone; they preserved it. And so we have these tangible, palpable witnesses to her thought process.”

Hotchkiss said it will be thrilling for students to get an insight into Brooks’ creativity. Hotchkiss noted that she hopes to get through all of the boxes by next summer.