MANITOWOC, Wis. — Silver Lake College on Monday dedicated an office, once used as a guest room, to Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000).
Brooks stayed overnight in the room during a turbulent time in American history. The dedication was among the college’s Black History Month activities.
As an African-American, Brooks was not allowed to stay overnight in Manitowoc, a “sundown town,” after she gave a poetry reading in the city on May 9, 1968.
Two Franciscan Sisters, from what was then called Holy Family College, attended Brooks’ reading. They were Sister Carina Schisel, an English faculty member, and Sister Ritarose Stahl, her student and now the college’s archivist.
When there was a question as to Brooks’ accommodations, the Sisters invited her to spend the night at the college, then located outside of the city limits.
“Their gesture serves as a testament to the Franciscan value of hospitality, which remains alive at Silver Lake College today,” reads the plaque.
The poet sent a thank you note, which said, in part:
“I shall never forget your gentle kindness, your deep humanity; I shall always gratefully return, in memory, to the hours of strange peace I experienced during my little stay with you.”
Dr. Chris E. Domes, president of Silver Lake College, and Sister Ritarose Stahl stand in front of the office, once used as a guest room, where Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks stayed after giving a poetry reading in Manitowoc on May 9, 1968. The office was dedicated during a gathering on Monday. Photo by Amy Hanson, Silver Lake College
For more photos from the dedication, click here.