bell hooks, Feminist Writer, Activist Dies at 69

Her work focussed on intersections of race, capitalism, gender and other systems of oppression.

Iconic feminist thinker, social activist and writer bell hooks died at the age of 69 at her home in Kentucky, United States. She died of kidney failure.

Born as Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952, she took the pen name bell hooks. The name “bell hooks” is borrowed from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She wanted to keep her name in small letters as she wanted the readers to focus on the message. She said she wanted readers to focus on the “substance of books, not who I am”.

The focus of hooks’s writing was the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender, and what she described as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination.

Her first book was published in 1981, Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism. Since its publication, Ain’t I a Woman? has been recognized for its contribution to feminist thought, with Publishers Weekly in 1992 naming it “One of the twenty most influential women’s books in the last 20 years.” Writing in The New York Times in 2019, Min Jin Lee said that Ain’t I a Woman “remains a radical and relevant work of political theory. hooks lays the groundwork of her feminist theory by giving historical evidence of the specific sexism that black female slaves endured and how that legacy affects black womanhood today”. Ain’t I a Woman? examines themes including the historical impact of sexism and racism on black women, devaluation of black womanhood, media roles and portrayal, the education system, the idea of a white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy, the marginalization of black women, and the disregard for issues of race and class within feminism.

She published more than 30 books and numerous scholarly articles, appeared in documentary films, and participated in public lectures. Her work addressed race, class, gender, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism. In 2014, she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.

hooks also became significant as a leftist and postmodern political thinker and cultural critic. Her books explored topics from black men, patriarchy, and masculinity to self-help; engaged pedagogy to personal memoirs; and sexuality (in regards to feminism and politics of aesthetics and visual culture). Reel to Real: race, sex, and class at the movies(1996) collects film essays, reviews, and interviews with film directors. In The New Yorker, Hua Hsu said these interviews displayed the facet of hooks’s work that was “curious, empathetic, searching for comrades”.

From 2004, hooks worked as a teacher at Berea College and in 2010 the school opened the bell hooks Institute at Berea College.

She was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2018.


Independent journalism can’t be independent without your support, contribute by clicking below.

April 2024


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here