Mari Evans
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Mari Evans
Mari Evans
Born(1919-07-16)July 16, 1919
Died (aged 97)
OccupationWriter, poet, teacher

Mari Evans (July 16, 1919[1] - March 10, 2017)[2] was an African-American poet, writer, and dramatist[3] associated with the Black Arts Movement.[4] Evans received grants and awards including a lifetime achievement award from the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, and her poetry is known for its lyrical simplicity and the directness of its themes.[4] As a scholar, she also wrote non-fiction and edited Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation (Doubleday, 1984), an important and timely[4] critical anthology devoted to the work of 15 writers. Evans died at the age of 97 in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 10, 2017.[5]

Education and teaching career

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Evans was ten years old when her mother died.[6] As Evans recalled in her essay "My Father's Passage" (1984), her father subsequently encouraged her writing.[7] Evans attended local public schools before enrolling in 1939 at the University of Toledo, where she majored in fashion design, but left without earning a college degree.[6] She began a series of teaching appointments in American universities in 1969. During 1969-70 she served as writer-in-residence at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indiana, where she taught courses in African-American literature. The next year she accepted a position as an assistant professor and writer-in-residence at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she taught until 1978.[3] From 1968 to 1973 Evans produced, wrote, and directed The Black Experience, a television program for WTTV in Indianapolis.[8] Later, she wrote that the program was her attempt to represent African Americans to themselves.[4] In 1975 Evans received an honorary degree from Marian College. She continued her teaching career at Purdue University (1978-80), Washington University in Saint Louis (1980), Cornell University (1981-85), and the State University of New York at Albany (1985-86).


Although her most renowned book of poetry, I Am a Black Woman, was published in 1970, many of her poems preceded the Black Arts Movement, while coinciding with the Black Arts poets' messages of Black cultural, psychological, and economic liberation. Themes of loss, struggle, pride, and resistance are common in Evans' poetry.[3][4] In her later work, she began to use experimental techniques and incorporate African American idiom in ways that encourage readers to identify with and respect the speaker.[3] Evans spoke of the need to make Blackness both beautiful and powerful. In her poem "I am a Black Woman", the second stanza reads: "I am a black woman tall as a cypress strong beyond all definition still defying place and time and circumstance assailed impervious indestructible." She is also well known for the line: "I have never been contained except I made the prison."

Primarily known for her poetry, Evans also wrote short fiction, children's books, dramas, and essays.

Community service

Mari Evans was an activist for prison reform, and was against capital punishment.[9] She also worked with theater groups and local community organizations.[9]

Selected bibliography


  • Where is all the Music (1968) OCLC 119992
  • I am a Black Woman (1970) ISBN 9780863163142, OCLC 232624035
  • Night Star 1973-1978 (1981) ISBN 9780934934077, OCLC 6791209
  • A Dark and Splendid Mass, Harlem River Press (1992) ISBN 9780863163135, OCLC 702366001
  • Continuum, Black Classic Press (2007) ISBN 9781933491165, OCLC 940364042

Children's books


  • Rivers of My Song (1977)
  • Eyes, an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1979)
  • Portrait of a Man (1979)
  • Boochie (1979)
  • The Pro (1979)


Awards and honors

  • John Hay Whitney Fellow, 1965-66
  • Woodrow Wilson Foundation Grant, 1968
  • Indiana University Writers Conference Award, 1970
  • First Annual Poetry Award, Black Academy of Arts and Letters, 1970
  • Copeland Fellow, Amherst College, 1980
  • National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1981-82
  • Featured on Ugandan postage stamp, 1997
  • Nominated for a Grammy Award for her liner notes to The Long Road Back to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music, 2002
  • African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio Legend Honoree, 2007
  • Indianapolis Public Library Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015[10]
  • Mural of Mari Evans by Michael "Alkemi" Jordan, August 2016[11]


  1. ^ Kovacik, Karen, "Mari Evans at 90", No More Corn, July 16, 2013.
  2. ^ Davis, Victoria T., "Poet, activist Mari Evans dies at age 93", RTV6, March 12, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Andrews, William L., 1946-, Foster, Frances Smith, Harris, Trudier, Oxford University Press. New York: Oxford University Press. 2001. ISBN 9780199916498. OCLC 49346948.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., Smith, Valerie, 1956- (eds.). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (Third ed.). New York. ISBN 9780393923698. OCLC 866563833.
  5. ^ Adams, Dwight. "Late Indianapolis Poet Mari Evans Leaves Legacy of Social Justice". Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ a b Sullivan, Erin, "Evans, Mari E.",
  7. ^ "Mari Evans",
  8. ^ "Mari Evans, a writer and a teacher", African American registry.
  9. ^ a b Dorsey, Jr., David E., "Evans, Mari", in William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster and Trudier Harris (eds), The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature, OUP, 2001, p. 134.
  10. ^ Chen, Wei-Huan, "Indiana poet Mari Evans receives lifetime achievement award", Indystar, October 8, 2015.
  11. ^ Davis, Victoria T., "Indianapolis-based poet, Mari Evans, honored with art mural on Mass Ave", The Indy Channel, August 11, 2016.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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