Chicago Loves Gwendolyn Brooks

Most of us at Legacy.com are Chicagoans (or Chicago suburbanites), and like most people, we're proud when one of our own makes it big. Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Muddy Waters, Chaka Khan, John Belushi, Bernie Mac, Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, – we love them. And among our favorite Chicago natives is poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who died 11 years ago today.

It's rare that a poet can achieve the fame that Brooks found. Her renown is a testament to her talent – from her first published collection, 1945's A Street in Bronzeville (a historically black neighborhood in Chicago rich in culture and arts), she received critical acclaim. By 1950, she had won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first given to an African-American poet. She read her poems at the Library of Congress, became Poet Laureate of Illinois, was awarded the National Medal of Arts, and received countless other honors.

Brooks' best-known poem is "We Real Cool" – a staple of high school literature texts. While Brooks appreciated the love for the short, taut verse, she wished more people knew her many other poems. We honor the beloved Chicagoan's wish today by offering a reading by Gwendolyn Brooks of her emotionally harrowing poem, "The Mother."