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Kentucky-born author bell hooks, one of country’s leading feminist scholars, dies at 69 following illness

Noted author bell hooks speaks at Berea College in April 2017. She died Wednesday after an extended illness. She was 69. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Berea College announced the death of bell hooks, Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies at the Madison County school, prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country’s foremost feminist scholars.

She died Wednesday at her home in Berea at the age of 69 following an extended illness.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, on Sept. 25, 1952, she adopted the pen name “bell hooks” (lower case is correct) from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.

Berea College says bell came into the life of many Bereans in 2004 to help the College get closer to its Great Commitments (the link to their website explains them), particularly the Fifth Great Commitment focused on the kinship of all people and interracial education, the Sixth Great Commitment dedicated to gender equality, and the Eighth Great Commitment centered on service to Appalachia.

In 2017, bell dedicated her papers to Berea College, ensuring that future generations of Bereans will know her work and the impact she had on the intersections of race, gender, place, class, and sexuality.

The following year, she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. Her selection elicited this tribute from Neil Chetnik, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning: “bell hooks is one of the most influential cultural critics of our time. She has built a worldwide readership over 40 years with unique insights on such topics as love, race, and power.”

In a statement, Berea College officials said they are grateful for her contributions to the campus community and will celebrate her life and legacy through the bell hooks center which just opened on campus this past fall. The bell hooks Institute at Berea College will continue to be a valuable and informative beacon to her life’s work, continuing to remind humans that life is all about love. In her words, “To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.”

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