Arts & Culture

Remembering bell hooks: Author and Activist

Percy Bartelt, staff writer

bell hooks in 2014 giving a talk at the New School, obtained from Wikimedia Commons

Black History Month is here! There are countless iconic Black individuals with stories to tell. One individual that comes to mind for her astounding and powerful work is bell hooks. She was an incredible scholar and passionate activist born Sept. 25, 1952 in Kentucky. She proudly used the pseudonym “bell hooks,” inspired by and borrowed from her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, and she kept her name lowercase both in honor of her grandmother and to assure that her work is what most people focus on, rather than her personal qualities. hooks grew up with an affinity for strength, knowledge and advocacy, and she was an incredibly selfless human being.

hooks has achieved various amazing feats throughout her lifetime, but does not overtly pride herself on her work. Instead, she strives for a significant impact on society from her work. According to Britannica’s page dedicated to the life and astounding legacy of hooks, she graduated high school in Kentucky and afterward went on to attend Stanford University studying English literature, and soon graduated in 1973 with her Bachelor’s degree. bell hooks immediately moved to earn her Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1976. However, she wasn’t done just yet. She went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1983. 

While earning these incredible academic accolades, hooks had also written her first full-length book at the age of nineteen! Her book, titled “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism,” took the whole world into her grasp with her incredible analyses of feminism and womanhood, her loud and proud criticisms of the world’s function, and even more academically pointed facts and opinions of the economy. hooks also had an amazing skill of public speaking and teaching to better prepare the next generations of activism, anthropology, economics, and much more! She taught English and Ethnic studies at the University of California in the mid-70’s, and then went on to teach African and Afro-American studies at Yale University in the 80’s. Soon after she taught Women’s studies at Oberlin College, and that isn’t even the last of the universities she taught at. In 2014, the bell hooks center was founded at Berea College in Kentucky in her honor. 

hooks is the perfect example of what real activism looks like. She isn’t performative, she didn’t solely profit off her work, instead she put her work and her vast knowledge to good use: helping every community possible, whilst also teaching the next generations about how they too can make a significant difference in the world. hooks has several books and recordings of her spectacular speeches on feminism, piecing apart capitalism and the patriarchy, and what it means to have intersectionality with your own identity. The world deserves to know about the kind of person hooks was and just what kind of legacy she wanted to leave behind. It pains me to say that hooks tragically passed away Dec. 15, 2021 in Berea, Kentucky, but her legacy needs to stay alive to this day.

I encourage everyone to study the work hooks put out into the world, and to remember her fondly and proudly. Copies of various hooks titles such as: “Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism,” “Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics,” “Talking Back: Thinking feminist, thinking Black,” and “Killing rage: ending racism,” to name a few, are available for checkout at the Lindell Library.