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Gwendolyn Brooks’ House

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Brooks House Google

Google Map image, 2017

In the fall of 1953, Brooks, her husband Henry, and children Hank (13) and Nora (2) moved into this Chicago home at 7428 South Evans Avenue. By the time of this move, Brooks had risen to the upper echelons of the literary world. From 1945 to 1949, Brooks published two celebrated books from within the cramped kitchenette building in which she and her husband Henry lived. For A Street in Bronzeville (August 1945), a complex and lively picture of the people and landmarks of her longtime neighborhood, Brooks drew inspiration from material close at hand. She said, “If you wanted a poem, you had only to look out of a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing” Then in 1949, Brooks followed up that huge success with Annie Allen, a deeply personal exploration of the beauty, toils, and triumphs of a young black woman coming of age. Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, thus becoming the first-ever African American winner of the award. 

According to Gwendolyn’s former literary mentee Haki Madhubuti, the Brooks’ house was like many Chicago houses of the time, with “a small wood-frame house, small kitchen, small living room packed with books.” Within the Evans house’s walls, Nora remembers her mother playing jazz music and “diddy bopping” around the entire house, as stated by biographer Angela Jackson. The house on South Evans Avenue was a stark contrast from the kitchenettes she lived in before, and was even more different than the life of Maud Martha. As biographer George Kent states, “Long gone was Maud Martha’s dreaded return from the silvery scenes of the movies to hear the unnerving sound of little animal feet scratching through the garbage thrown out from crowded lives. Gwendolyn had long been rid of them, except in memory, and that had at least been subjected to the exorcism of creating an autobiographical work of art. There was now something of the illusion of holding again that more inviting space of her childhood days.”

Located within the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, this house is surrounded by a diverse community and busy African American business district. From Southern soul restaurants to custom galleries featuring African American, African, and Caribbean artists, this house is grounded by a community with rich cultural ties. While this was not Brooks’ childhood home, Gwendolyn wrote some of her most notable works here. Often inspired by the subjects of her Bronzeville neighborhood, pieces such as “The Bean Eaters” and “In the Mecca” were crafted at this house. Brooks resided at this address until 1994 and on February 10th, 2010, the house was designated a Chicago landmark. 

In the fall of 1953, Brooks, her husband Henry, and children Hank (13) and Nora (2) moved into this Chicago home at 7428 South Evans Avenue. By the time of this move, Brooks had risen to the upper echelons of the literary world. From 1945 to 1949, Brooks published two celebrated books from within the cramped kitchenette building in which she and her husband Henry lived. For A Street in Bronzeville (August 1945), a complex and lively picture of the people and landmarks of her longtime neighborhood, Brooks drew inspiration from material close at hand. She said, “If you wanted a poem, you had only to look out of a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing” Then in 1949, Brooks followed up that huge success with Annie Allen, a deeply personal exploration of the beauty, toils, and triumphs of a young black woman coming of age. Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, thus becoming the first-ever African American winner of the award. 

According to Gwendolyn’s former literary mentee Haki Madhubuti, the Brooks’ house was like many Chicago houses of the time, with “a small wood-frame house, small kitchen, small living room packed with books.” Within the Evans house’s walls, Nora remembers her mother playing jazz music and “diddy bopping” around the entire house, as stated by biographer Angela Jackson. The house on South Evans Avenue was a stark contrast from the kitchenettes she lived in before, and was even more different than the life of Maud Martha. As biographer George Kent states, “Long gone was Maud Martha’s dreaded return from the silvery scenes of the movies to hear the unnerving sound of little animal feet scratching through the garbage thrown out from crowded lives. Gwendolyn had long been rid of them, except in memory, and that had at least been subjected to the exorcism of creating an autobiographical work of art. There was now something of the illusion of holding again that more inviting space of her childhood days.”

Located within the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, this house is surrounded by a diverse community and busy African American business district. From Southern soul restaurants to custom galleries featuring African American, African, and Caribbean artists, this house is grounded by a community with rich cultural ties. While this was not Brooks’ childhood home, Gwendolyn wrote some of her most notable works here. Often inspired by the subjects of her Bronzeville neighborhood, pieces such as “The Bean Eaters” and “In the Mecca” were crafted at this house. Brooks resided at this address until 1994 and on February 10th, 2010, the house was designated a Chicago landmark. 

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Gwendolyn Brooks House Landmark

Floyd Sullivan

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