“I try for a poetic language that says, This is who we are, where we have been, where we are. This is where we must go. And this is what we must do” – Mari Evans
Mari Evans may be one of America’s most influential Black writers. And while she’s authored poetry, children’s literature and plays, she perhaps made her biggest mark by editing countless works of others. And, she is the editor of the definitive and award-winning Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation.
Born this day in 1923, Evans attended the University of Toledo and later taught at several other schools, including Purdue and Cornell. In 1968 she plowed new ground by writing and producing yet another award-winning effort, the television program, “The Black Experience.” Her first poetry collection, Where Is All the Music? established her as a serious poetic writer, and her second, I Am a Black Woman gained her worldwide acclaim. Her poem “Who Can Be Born Black” is often anthologized and has been back in the national conversation this year with the controversy surrounding a woman in Washington who portrayed herself as Black when she was not.
I Am A Black Woman resonated with the power and beauty of Black women and set the bar for many of her fellow female Black writers in the latter part of the 20th century. “I am a black woman,” Evans wrote, “tall as a cypress, strong beyond all definition, still defying place and time and circumstance, assailed, impervious, indestructible.”
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