Trailblazing Black feminist bell hooks, whose graceful, probing and wide-ranging books sought to empower people of all races, classes, and genders, anticipating and helping shape ongoing debates about justice and discrimination in the United States, died Dec. 15 at her home in Berea, Ky. She was 69.
Preferring to spell her name with no capital letters as a way of de-emphasizing her individual identity, bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins as the fourth of seven children in Hopkinsville, Ky., on Sept. 25, 1952. Her pen name was a tribute to her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.
She attended segregated schools in her native Christian County, Ky., before earning her undergraduate degree at Stanford University in California, a master’s degree in English at the University of Wisconsin, and a doctorate in literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Trailblazing feminist author, critic and activist bell hooks has died at 69
Starting in 1981 with her book “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism,” Ms. Hooks, who insisted on using all lowercase letters in her name, argued that feminism’s claim to speak for all women had pushed the unique experiences of working-class and Black women to the margins.
“A devaluation of Black womanhood occurred as a result of the sexual exploitation of Black women during slavery that has not altered in the course of hundreds of years,” she wrote.
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