University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The items in the Digital Collections of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library contain materials which represent or depict sensitive topics or were written from perspectives using outdated or biased language. The Library condemns discrimination and hatred on any grounds. As a research library that supports the mission and values of this land grant institution, it is incumbent upon the University Library to preserve, describe, and provide access to materials to accurately document our past, support learning about it, and effect change in the present. In accordance with the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read statement, we do not censor our materials or prevent patrons from accessing them.

If you have questions regarding this statement or any content in the Library’s digital collections, please contact

American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility at the University Library

Gwendolyn Brooks Digital Collection

The literary archives of Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) are part of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Ms. Brooks was an Illinois Poet Laureate as well as the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize. The collection is comprehensive and spans more than half a century. It includes Ms. Brooks’ youthful poetry and prose, scrapbooks of pieces she published as a young woman, and extensive correspondence with a significant roster of other writers. The correspondence section alone has more than 100 boxes filled with letters, envelopes, and other items that were sent to and by Ms. Brooks. Also in the collection are manuscript drafts and proofs, especially material from after she left mainstream commercial publishing to produce her works with small presses and Black-owned imprints.

Providing more insight into the daily life of Ms. Brooks, the collection also contains a profusion of notes documenting her observations on current events and daily life, her personal library of books, and a plethora of scrapbooks and other photographs – many of them detailed with extensive notes about their subjects. Ms. Brooks’ papers preserve and illuminate her creative process, sometimes across decades. Ms. Brooks’ meticulous preservation of and commentary on all aspects of her life is, at heart, a deeply archival pursuit, beckoning us to uncover networks of support and influence, make connections among her many interests and activities, and, ultimately, come to a deeper understanding of the person and the poet.

A portion of this digital collection was conserved and digitized through a Save America’s Treasures grant. (

“The Save America’s Treasures grant program was established in 1998 to celebrate America's premier cultural resources in the new millennium. After more than 20 years, this grant program has awarded more than 1,300 grants totaling more than $300 million to projects across the United States. Funded projects, selected from 4,000-plus applications requesting $1.5 billion, represent nationally significant historic properties and collections that convey our nation's rich heritage to future generations. The National Park Service administers Save America's Treasures grants in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.”

Collection photograph by Roy Lewis.