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
Evans, born on July 16, 1923, was one of America’s most influential Black writers, authoring poetry, children’s literature and plays, and editing countless works of others. She also edited the definitive and award-winning Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation.
Evans, who died last year just short of her 94th birthday, grew up in Ohio, attended the University of Toledo and taught at places like Purdue and Cornell. In 1968 she plowed new ground by writing and producing the award-winning television program, “The Black Experience.” Her first poetry collection, Where Is All the Music? established her as a major poetic writer, and her second, I Am a Black Woman gained her worldwide acclaim. Her poem “Who Can Be Born Black” is often anthologized.
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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