Feature Friday: Founder of Black poetry center donates collection to JMU Libraries (Dr. Joanne Gabbin)

Posted on: February 26, 2021

Two years before Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman made history with her performances at the 2021 presidential inauguration and Super Bowl, she took the stage at James Madison University as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. 

Amanda Gorman meeting Dr. Joanne Gabbin and husband Alexander at the 25th Anniversary Gala.

Pictured: Amanda Gorman at 25th Anniversary Celebration of Furious Flower Poetry Center, meeting Dr. Joanne Gabbin, director, and husband Alexander Gabbin. Photo by JMU Communications and Marketing, 2019.

JMU’s Furious Flower Poetry Center is the nation’s first academic center devoted to Black poetry, and has brought over 200 Black poets to JMU to read their own work, including Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. 

The founder and director of Furious Flower, Dr. Joanne Gabbin, has been recognized for her contributions to the field of African American poetry by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the HistoryMakers Archives, the College Language Association, and the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. Most recently, JMU recognized the contributions of Dr. Gabbin and her husband, Dr. Alexander Gabbin, by naming Gabbin Hall in their honor.

We are proud to announce that as of February 2021, Dr. Gabbin’s donation of letters, manuscripts, teaching materials, photographs, poetry, and other records to JMU Libraries is open to the public. The collection of materials, known as the Joanne V. Gabbin Papers, relate to her role as professor of English, former director of the Honors Program, executive director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, and an influential figure in the African American literary community. 

JMU Libraries staff and student employees in Special Collections worked to arrange and describe these records, some of which were damaged in a building flood. Now they are safely stored and accessible to all researchers who seek to learn and tell the stories of Black poets and Black poetry in the United States.

For more Feature Friday stories from JMU Libraries, visit our website or search #JMUFeatureFriday on Twitter.

Group photo on stage at 2004 Furious Flower conference.

Pictured: Dr. Joanne Gabbin (far right) with six poets laureate: Askia Touré, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Dolores Kendrick, Eugene Redmond and Rita Dove. Photo by C.B. Claiborne, 2004.

Learn more:

Letters and photos in front of a box of documents.

Pictured: Items from the Gabbin Collection. Photo by JMU Libraries Special Collections.

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