bell hooks, Towering Feminist Creator and Critic, Useless at 69


Outstanding Feminist, Author, Poet and Critic bell hook died December 14 at her home in Berea, Kentucky, the Lexington Herald Guide reports. She was 69.

The Hooks family confirmed her death in a statement, saying they have “complied with her request to transition back home with family and friends by her side.” An exact cause of death was not released, but the family said Hooks was ill.

During her career, Hooks has published more than 40 books—ranging from collections of essays to children’s books—and has served as a professor at Yale, Oberlin, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2014, she founded the Bell Hooks Institute at Berea College, which houses her archives and hosts events and speakers that seek to further explore how to understand and disrupt what Hooks has long defined as the power of the “imperialist-white-supremacist-capitalist.” -Patriarchate” has described structure.

In a 2015 interview with The New York TimesDiscussing her use of this specific multi-hyphenated term, Hooks said, “We cannot begin to understand the nature of domination unless we understand how these systems are connected. Significantly, this sentence has always moved me because it does not put one system above another. In the feminist movement, women have said for so many years that gender is the only aspect of identity that really matters, that domination only came into the world through rape. Then we had so many race-oriented people saying, ‘Race is the most important thing. We don’t even need to talk about class or gender.’ So, to me, that phrase always reminds me of a global context, of class, of empire, of capitalism, of racism, of patriarchy. These things are all connected – an interlocking system.”

Hooks was born Gloria Watkins on September 25, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky (herself). Hooks grew up in segregated schools but completed an integrated high school, after which she received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and then her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. In 1981 she published her first major work, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, a seminal book that traced the marginalization and subjugation of black women in contemporary society – as well as contemporary civil rights and women’s liberation movements – to how black slave women were treated.

In future work, Hooks continued to explore intersectional issues such as race, feminism, and oppression, and authored books on pedagogy and how to better teach and address these issues in the classroom. She also addressed these issues through more abstract lenses, such as her acclaimed 2000 exploration of love and relationships, All About Love: New Visions.

“A generous heart is always open, always ready to accept our goings and comings,” Hooks wrote in a famous passage from All About Love. “In the midst of such love, we need never fear abandonment. That is the most precious gift of true love – the experience of knowing that we always belong.”

In 2018, Hooks was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, while last fall, Berea College opened the Bell Hooks Center to complement the Bell Hooks Institute. In a 2018 interview with Diverse educationShe explained why she was forced to open the institute.

“I was discouraged because other black women said to me, ‘You don’t need an institute, you don’t know what you’re doing,'” she said. “And I was really shocked not to get support, but I think that’s the schizophrenia we live in. People are like, ‘Well, your books will be there.’ You can’t count on this white, racist world to protect some of us with the care and dedication we desire.”