WASHINGTON — Acclaimed author bell hooks has died at the age of 69, according to a statement from her family.
She died at home Wednesday, surrounded by friends and family, her niece, Ebony Motley, said.
hooks, who was born Gloria Jean Watkins, is best known for her writings about race, gender and social class. She ultimately wrote more than 40 books over the 43 years since her debut poetry collection, "And There We Wept."
Starting with that poetry collection in 1978, she wrote under the pen name bell hooks, which she took from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks.
hooks is remembered as a feminist and social activist who fought for inclusion for historically marginalized people, especially in education.
She was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame as "one of the most influential cultural critics of our time," said Neil Chethik, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
According to The Independent, she opted not to capitalize her pen name in order to focus attention on her ideas rather than her identity.
In 2017, bell dedicated her papers to Berea College in Kentucky, where she worked since 2004. The liberal arts college does not charge for tuition, and earlier this year opened the bell hooks center on campus, a social space for historically underrepresented students.
In a statement mourning her death, school officials called hooks a "prodigious author, public intellectual and one of the country’s foremost feminist scholars."
Her family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Christian County Literacy Council, which promotes reading for children, or the Museum of Hopkinsville Christian County.