ffpc-25th-gibbin.jpgA Night 25 Years in the Making!

In the fall of 1994 JMU English professor, Dr. Joanne Gabbin, convened the first Furious Flower Poetry Conference. Held on JMU’s campus, it was the largest known gathering of Black poets, critics, and literary scholars for the celebration and critical discourse of Black poetry. Furious Flower flourished and became the nation's first academic center dedicated to Black Poetry, with a mission to celebrate and preserve the legacy of Black poetry and to encourage its inclusion in all levels of educational curricula.

ffpc-25th-entryway.jpgSeptember of 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of Furious Flower. We celebrated in Washington, D.C. with over 40 poetry readings and discussions from Nikki Giovanni, Toi Derricotte, A. Van Jordan, Amanda Gorman, Tracy K. Smith, Qiniso "Qibho" Motsa (of Eswatini), and a plethora of other brilliant Black poets. With over 700 supporters in attendance over the course of 3- days, the birth of a movement in Black poetry was celebrated.

With annual youth programs, the decennial conference (coming up in 2024!), poetry prizes, and digitization of our rich archives, Furious Flower continues to be a space of cultivation, celebration, education, and preservation. 

 To hear more about the impact of Furious Flower, watch the video produced by Black Studies- Black Space at JMU.

 Welcome Letter From Joanne V. Gabbin:

Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Furious Flower!

Twenty-five years ago hundreds of poets, scholars, and poetry enthusiasts gathered at the Furious Flower Poetry Conference at James Madison University at what became the largest such meeting of Black poets in the nation. The idea to have a conference to honor Gwendolyn Brooks changed my life and grew into the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the first academic center devoted to ensuring the visibility, inclusion, and critical consideration of Black poetry. 


This weekend we gather here in Washington, DC, the city that Sterling Brown and Dolores Kendrick graced with their powerful poetic voices, to celebrate with all of you who have sown seeds to ensure the future of Black poetry and the longevity and financial security of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. 


I am overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity in making your presence here a priority. I especially want to thank the Furious Flower Advisory Board Members for enthusiastically supporting the recognition of this milestone and the members of the Furious Flower staff who helped organize this event with such meticulous care. 


I am also grateful to our Honorary Host Committee Members--Rita Dove, Nikki Giovanni, A. Van Jordan, Marilyn Nelson, Gregory Pardlo, Sonia Sanchez, and Tracy K. Smith—for lending their talents and encouragement to the success of this endeavor. 


Because of your contributions, I see a bright future for the Furious Flower Poetry Center as we continue to break new ground in this field that we have cultivated and nurtured.

Have a wonderful time at the Gala at the Grand Hyatt and enjoy the Smithsonian’s latest jewel, the National Museum of African American History and Culture where we will highlight more than 25 of the most distinguished poets in America. Thank you again for celebrating with us.

Warmest regards,

 Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin

 Executive Director

 Furious Flower Poetry Center


Additional information:


Articles on the event:






Radio Show:



Furious Flower Poetry Center: Poets & Scholars on the 25th Anniversary


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