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Emory to celebrate Black Arts Movement writer Mari Evans with panel, poetry readings

An undated photo of Mari Evans at the piano. From the Mari Evans papers, Rose Library at Emory University.

Emory University will celebrate the contributions of Mari Evans, an influential Black Arts Movement writer and activist, with poetry readings and a panel on Wednesday, Feb. 21, in the Jones Room at the Robert W. Woodruff Library on the Emory campus.

“The Rebel: In Celebration of Mari Evans” will begin with a reception and readings of her poems by students at 6:30 p.m. From 7-8:30 p.m., Black Arts Movement scholars will participate in a panel on the multi-faceted aspects of Evans’ practice as a poet, educator, musician, activist and author, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The event is open to the public at no charge, but attendees are asked to sign up at the registration link.

The three panel speakers are:

  • Joanne Gabbin, English professor at James Madison University and founder and executive director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center;
  • Althea Tait, assistant professor of African American literature at The College at Brockport, State University of New York;
  • Bettye Parker Smith, educator, writer and lecturer on issues related to African American women writers and Provost Emeritus of Tougaloo College

A major figure in the Black Arts Movement, Evans wrote books of poetry, including “A Dark and Splendid Mass,” “I Am a Black Woman” and “Where Is All the Music?” Her books for children include “Dear Corinne, Tell Somebody! Love, Annie: A Book about Secrets” and “Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children.” 

Evans was also the author of the plays “Eyes” (a 1979 musical adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”) and “River of My Song” and taught at colleges and universities including Spelman College, Purdue University and Cornell University. She died on March 10, 2017, at the age of 97. 

Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library holds a large collection of Evans’ papers.

This event is co-sponsored by the Rose Library, James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University, Emory’s English department, the Creative Writing Program and Fearless Dialogues. 

The Woodruff Library is located on the Emory campus at 540 Asbury Circle in Atlanta, 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne deck. For disability-related accommodations, please contact Emory Libraries events manager Maya Cody in advance at 404-727-7620 or

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