Author, activist and scholar bell hooks has died at 69

According to her family, hooks died Dec. 15 at home in Berea, Kentucky

By Alison Stine

Published December 15, 2021 6:42PM (EST)

Black feminist bell hooks during an interview for her book in 1999 (Margaret Thomas/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Black feminist bell hooks during an interview for her book in 1999 (Margaret Thomas/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Author, cultural critic, and scholar bell hooks has died, her family announced in a statement. hooks died Dec. 15 at home in Berea, Kentucky. She was 69.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, hooks was one of seven children. As a child, she attended segregated schools. She went on to Stanford University, where she earned a bachelor's degree; the University of Wisconsin, where she received a master's degree; and the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she earned a doctorate in English Literature. 

bells hooks was a pseudonym, intended to honor her great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, a name which she first adopted in 1978 upon the publication of her poetry collection "And There We Wept," according to her family's statement. hooks utilized lower-case letters in her pseudonym because she wanted readers to center on the "substance of books, not who I am."

In 1981, hooks published "Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism." That was followed by the publication of over three dozen books from collections of essays to poetry to children's books, often focused on issues and stories of love, race, gender, socioeconomics, culture, and her native Appalachia. As the BBC wrote, "In particular, hooks wrote about how a person's race, gender and social class were interconnected." 

In a 2000 interview with the NPR program "All Things Considered," hooks said, "I'm so moved often when I think of the civil rights movement, because I see it as a great movement for social justice that was rooted in love…I tell this to young people, you know, that we can love in a deep and profound way that transforms the political world in which we live in."

The bell hooks Institute at Berea College, where hooks taught since 2004, opened in 2010. In 2018, hooks was inducted into the Kentucky Writers' Hall of Fame.


Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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