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Kentucky native, groundbreaking feminist thinker bell hooks dies at 69

bell hooks
Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
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bell hooks, the author, educator and activist whose explorations of how race, gender, economics and politics intertwine made her among the most influential feminist thinkers of her time, has died. She was 69. WUKY's Arlo Barnette reports.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, the writer’s pen name came from her great-grandmother and was not capitalized, which she said was to emphasize the substance of her books instead of who she was. bell hooks published essays, poetry, and more than 40 books, including “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism” and “All About Love: New Visions.” Her internationally acclaimed works helped shape popular and academic discourse in topics like race, gender, and class.

hooks was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2018. There she spoke about returning to Kentucky after leaving what she called a racial apartheid in Christian County.

“Increasingly, the rest of the world—in all the things that I didn’t want to deal with: imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy—was as fiercely there as it was in Kentucky. So it was wonderful to be able to come home to Kentucky, to be the Kentucky writer influenced by our life in the hills, to be a person of courage, to be self-determining, and to be a person of love . . . I see my presence here as both a celebration and a victory. A celebration of all of those black folks in Kentucky who made it possible for me to move out of racial apartheid, into a world of hope and beauty and promise.”
bell hooks

She was a Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies at Berea College, where the bell hooks Institute opened in 2010.

bell hooks died Wednesday at her home in Berea. A press release from her niece said she had been ill and was surrounded by friends and family when she passed. She was 69.