December 15th saw the death of the legendary author, activist, and professor bell hooks. An impassioned proponent of intersectional feminism and fearless critic of racist and classist societal frameworks, hooks succumbed to kidney failure at the age of 69. Immediately after her passing, an outpouring of commiserations and messages of gratitude towards bell hooks’ work filled social media and news sites—an indication of just how strongly this radically kind and wise mind has affected the public.
A child of small-town, southern segregation, hooks carried a passion for literature and poetry forward into her education, receiving both a BA and MA in English at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin-Michigan respectively. Shortly after this, she began her career as a professor and lecturer, covering such fields as ethnic studies, African and Afro-American studies, and English.
Perhaps hooks’ most recognized work was her first book Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Almost a decade in the making, Ain’t I A Woman covered the intersections of the civil rights movement and feminist movements, honing in on the oppression perpetuated by these idealistic movements by not regarding the way in which they affected black women in their pursuits. Tying together a history of oppression and boldly critiquing still ongoing socio-political structures, hooks pushed against traditional academia to make black feminist history accessible to a broad audience.
Through appearances in documentaries, her work as an academic mind, and her dozens of books, bell hooks has become a keystone in the modern discourse of feminist theory and practice. With her thoughts covering everything from culture and art to masculine identity and self-love, the moral compass that guided hooks mind throughout life was clear. But it was not only her ability to passionately express her opinions on the pressing matters of female and racial equality, but the deep level of care and concern hooks’ works swelled with that made her writing—and her self—so relatable and so important.