Mari Evans was born July 16, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio. When she was only 10 years old, her mother passed away leaving her father to raise her alone. Her father felt the need to cultivate her talent for writing in any way possible. As a result, writing would become the main focal point of her career.
Evans attended local public schools throughout her primary and secondary education. Once she graduated from high school, she attended the University of Toledo in the 1940s. There, she studied fashion design but she never graduated. Her interest shifted from fashion to poetry. By 1969, she was a writer-in-residence at Indiana University-Purdue where she simultaneously taught Black Literature.
Where Is All the Music?
In 1969, Evans published her first body of work, Where Is All the Music? The following year, she published her famous, I Am a Black Woman. From 1968 to 1973, she acted as the producer, writer, and director of The Black Experience. The Black Experience was a historical documentary that aired on prime time in Indianapolis.
Evans also worked in the theater. She adapted Zora Neal Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God into a stage play, titled Eyes. While working on several different stage plays, she also worked as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1969 to 1970. In 1981, Evans published a collection of poetry titled Nightstar: 1973-1978. In 1992, she published a second collection of poetry titled A Dark and Splendid Mass.
While writing poetry, Evans also taught at a number of institutions. She taught at Spelman College, Cornell, Northwestern, Washington University, and many others. In her later years, she began writing children’s books that teach kids about Black history and culture. She wrote children’s books for the remainder of her life.
Evans was best known for her poetry which encapsulated the Black struggle of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the praise of Africa among the diaspora. In 1981, she won the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. In 1997, the Ugandan government issued a postage stamp in her honor to commemorate her contribution to Black literature. Mari Evans died March 10, 2017, in her home in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was 93 years old.
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