Berea College is deeply saddened about the death of bell hooks, Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies, prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country’s foremost feminist scholars. She died at her home in Berea after an extended illness.
Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Ky., on Sept. 25, 1952, she adopted the pen name “bell hooks” from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.
bell came into the life of many Bereans in 2004 to help the College get closer to its Great Commitments, 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: “bell hooks is one of the most influential cultural critics of our time,” said Neil Chethik, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. “She has built a worldwide readership over 40 years with unique insights on such topics as love, race and power.”
Berea College is grateful for her contributions to the campus community and will celebrate her life and legacy through the bell hooks center that opened on campus in fall 2021. 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.”