Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 

It is February, Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, a month officially designated as such since 1976 by each U.S. president. It grew out of “Negro History Week” and is a month to celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to the U.S. and the world. (Wikipedia)  

Years ago, my daughter and I grabbed seats in a theater, not noticing next to whom we sat at first. But when I turned my head to say something to my daughter, I realized that she was sitting next to the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. 

I hunched my daughter and said, “You are sitting next to Gwendolyn Brooks.” 

She gave me one of those I-cannot-believe-it looks and then whispered, “Do you think I can ask her for an autograph?”

I shook my head up and down and whispered “yes.” 

She turned to Ms. Brooks and greeted her, then asked her if she would autograph her program. 

Ms. Brooks in her usual pleasant manner shook her head in a yes motion, smiled, took my daughter’s program and signed it.  When Ms. Brooks gave the autographed program back to my daughter, my daughter smiled and thanked her profusely. 

Ms. Brooks smiled at her and smiled at me, too.  My daughter looked at me with a smile on her face that could have lit up a room. I was so proud that she knew who Ms. Brooks was and respected her.

Ms. Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. She received it in 1949 for her book “Annie Allen,” a book of poems about an African-American girl growing up in Chicago. 

Ms. Brooks grew up in Chicago and has dark skin. She knew from her own experiences what it meant to be discriminated against, but she succeeded in spite of it.  She was a bright, acutely aware-of-the-world person,

 If you have not read any of Gwendolyn Brooks’s works, I encourage you to do so.  Below is one of her quotes that I like and think humans should take to heart.

“We don’t ask a flower any special reason for its existence. We just look at it and are able to accept it as being something different from ourselves.”  (Gwendolyn Brooks)


Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...