The history of Gwendolyn Brooks’ publications is aligned with her political background and transition into the Black Arts and Pro-Black movement. Up until the early 1960’s, the majority of Brooks’ work was published by Harper & Row. I argue that it is no coincidence that during the height of Civil Rights Movement, the mega mainstream publishing company was not publishing any of Brooks’ more Afrocentric work. However, it seems as though she always maintained relationships with smaller, black-owned, publishing houses throughout the Midwest, which gave her a significant amount of autonomy. Of particular importance, was her ongoing relationship with Third World Press, and owner Haki Madhubuti. Madhubuti was known for his militancy, Afrocentricity, and role in the Black Power movement. For someone whose poetry was once embraced and revered in the white community, the alliance with Third World Press undoubtedly alienated a certain portion of her following.
Timeline of publications of interest:
- 1. Harper & Row, 1944, 1945, 1949, 1959, 1960, 1963
- 1. The David Company, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1960, 1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1981, 1987
- 2. Third World Press 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992
- 1. AMS Press NY, 1953
- 2. Third World Press, 1993
- 1. Broadside Press, 1969, 1970
The World of Gwendolyn Brooks
- 1. Harper & Row Publishers, 1971
- 1. Broadside Press, 1971
Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology
- 1. Broadside Press 1971-1983
Report From Part One
- 1. Broadside Press 1972, 1973
Young Poet’s Primer
- 1. Brooks Press, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1988
- 1. Third World Press, 1981
Very Young Poets
- 1. Brooks Press, 1983, 1986
- 1. Brooks Publishing, date (?)
- 1. Third World Press, copyright 1988, 1st printing in 1991
Report From Part Two
- 1. Third World Press, 1996
Beckonings was published by Brooks’ own publishing company, and was a very thin, inexpensive pamphlet which featured her brother’s artwork (again, highlighting Brooks’ loyalty and allegiance to her immediate family and the extended black community). Although I could not locate a date, this piece resembles (in length and appearance) Very Young Poets and Young Poet’s Primer, so it is likely that it was published around the same time.
In an interview with Walter L. Lowe, a once well-respected and nationally published journalist from Chicago, I was fascinated to learn that the (once young) poet Don Lee, that Brooks’ repeatedly spoke so highly of in many of her interviews was in fact, Haki Madhubuti, owner of Third World Press. He adopted an African name in 1974, as an aftermath of the civil rights movement, just as other notable black Chicagoans changed their names, such as world-famous boxer Cassius Clay, who became Muhammed Ali when he joined The Nation of Islam. This reveals how long Brooks and Madhubuti maintained a mutually supportive, and perhaps symbiotic, relationship. In 1993, when Maud Martha was published by Third World Press, we see a continuation of her devotion to supporting and representing her fellow black artists by using the art of the young African-American Craig Taylor for her cover design. In an interview with Brooks in 1974 (published in Conversations With Gwendolyn Brooks), Madhubuti asks her to comment on her “consistent helping of Black institutions.” “Yes. I didn’t leave Harper and Row because they were doing anything to me. . . But I had been telling young poets to support the Black presses . . . and it seemed strange for myself to continue with a white publishing company when I was giving this advice” (76). A woman of her word, Gwendolyn Brooks was humble, remained true to her roots, and practiced what she preached. In 2002, Madhubuti organized his contemporaries to publish Gwendolyn Brooks’ Maud Martha: A Critical Collection. The relationship between Madhubuti and Brooks extended even after her death.
Gayles, Gloria Wade. Conversations with Gwendolyn Brooks. University Press of Mississippi Jackson, 2003.
Kent, George E. A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, The University Press of Kentucky, 1990.