Gloria Jean Watkins was born in 1952 to a poor working-class family in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. She attended segregated public schools as a child, but was always involved in her community, writing and reading poetry with her church congregation. Growing up, she was greatly influenced by her grandmother Bell Blair Hooks whom “was known for her snappy and bold tongue.”
Gloria took on the pseudonym “bell hooks,” stylizing it in all lowercase letters. She is now an accomplished author and social activist with a long career of addressing race, class, feminism, gender, art, and sexuality. Often cited by feminists as having detailed one of the truest definitions of the movement, she asserted that feminism is “…a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” Aside from her over three dozen published books, children’s books, and scholarly articles, hooks has appeared in a number of documentaries including ‘Black Is… Black Ain’t’ (1994) and ‘Baadasssss Cinema’ (2002). She began teaching in 1976 as an English professor at the University of Southern California and continued that career throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s at such esteemed institutions as the University of California, Santa Cruz; San Francisco University; Yale; Oberlin College; and City College of New York. In 2014, she founded the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Kentucky.