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Furious Flower Poetry Center Records

Identifier: UA 0017
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Furious Flower Poetry Center Records, 1970-2021, consisting of 17.6 cubic feet (43 boxes, 1 rolled storage container), document the departmental activities of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, a unit formerly of the JMU Honor’s Program that became its own separate academic center of the University in 2005. A portion of the material contained within the records derive from events and programs sponsored by the Furious Flower Poetry Center including 73 Poems for 73 Years: Celebrating the Life of Lucille Clifton, Lineage: The Margaret Walker Song Cycle, and an annual children’s poetry camp. Specific types of materials include event posters and brochures, exhibit panels, logistical and planning documentation, and email correspondence. Materials related to publications produced by the Center such as Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy and Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers are comprised of draft manuscripts and correspondence with poets and publishers. Grant proposals and awards, many of which relate to the aforementioned events and projects, are also represented. Materials related to the decennial Furious Flower poetry conferences, including administrative documentation and video recordings, are represented in the Conference Records series.


  • Creation: 1970 - 2021


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research. Currently, the silk banners used in the 2004 and 2014 Furious Flower Poetry Conferences may only be requested (in writing) by Furious Flower Poetry Center staff. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

Copyright for official University records is held by James Madison University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Administrative History

The Furious Flower Poetry Center (FFPC) was established in 1999 by Joanne V. Gabbin when she was the director of James Madison University’s Honors Program. With this flagship of the Honors Program, she continued the kind of programming she had begun by hosting the 1994 Furious Flower Poetry Conference, which was the nation’s first scholarly conference on Black poetry. The conference, entitled Furious Flower: A Revolution in African American Poetry, was dedicated to acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks and featured scholars, critics, and the most accomplished and esteemed poets of the time including Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Sonia Sanchez, Michael S. Harper, Haki Madhubuti, and Gwendolyn Brooks herself. The name “Furious Flower” is derived from Brooks’ poem Second Sermon on the Warpland in which she writes:

The time cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.

Many who participated in the inaugural Furious Flower conference had their roots in the Black Arts Movement. The Black Arts Movement emerged in the wake of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and was comprised of politically motivated black visionaries, poets, artists, dramatists, musicians, and writers. The conference was met with overwhelming praise and The Washington Post called it an historic event.

Due to the success of the 1994 Furious Flower Conference, the Furious Flower Poetry Center (FFPC) was established in 1999 and the Conference became a decennial event, held every ten years. The subsequent conferences were Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition (2004) and Seeding the Future of African American Poetry. Conference programming is comprised of concerts, readings, roundtable and panel discussions, and paper presentations.

In 2005, following the success of the second Furious Flower Poetry Conference (2004), JMU gave the FFPC its official charter, making it the first academic center in the United States devoted to Black poetry. Gabbin became its executive director, leaving the Honors Program after 19 years of service.

Today, the FFPC is committed to “cultivating, honoring, and promoting the diverse voices of African American poets by making the genre accessible to a wide audience and collaborating with educational and cultural institutions, literary organizations, and artists.” It hosts visiting poets for readings at JMU and nearby venues; sponsors workshops; holds an annual poetry camp for elementary and middle school-aged children; produces texts, videos, DVDs and other materials on African-American poetry; and gathers poets and other scholars for intimate panels and seminars, as well as major conferences. FFPC has held three decennial Furious Flower Conferences: “A Revolution in African American Poetry” (1994), “Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition” (2004), and “Seeding the Future of African American Poetry” (2014).

FFPC is located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Way/Historic Cantrell Avenue. Beyond her duties as Executive Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center, Joanne Gabbin is a professor of English at JMU, a published author, and a member of the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent.


17.6 cubic feet (43 boxes, 1 rolled storage container)

Language of Materials



The Furious Flower Poetry Center Records, consisting of 17.6 cubic feet (43 boxes, 1 rolled storage container), document the departmental activities of the Furious Flower Poetry Center.


The collection is arranged into four series. Series are arranged chronologically; Series 2, 3, and 4 are further arranged alphabetically according to a particular publication or event.

  1. Grants and Financial Files, 2004-2021
  2. Publications and Manuscripts, 1993-2012
  3. Events, Programs, and Workshops, 1990-2019
  4. Conference Records, 1970-2015

Acquisition Information

Furious Flower Poetry Center transferred these materials to Special Collections on May 16 and June 29, 2016. Subsequent transfers occurred in September 2017 and September 2019.

Appraisal Information

Small Purchase Credit Card Statements were discarded due to lack of research value.

Due to duplication elsewhere in Special Collections the following issues of Madison (known as Montpelier from 1977-2005), many with articles pertaining to Furious Flower Poetry Center, were returned to the donor: Summer 2003, Winter 2005, Spring 2006, Fall 2006, Summer 2006, Spring 2007, Summer 2007, Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Winter 2008, Summer 2009, Fall 2009, Spring/Summer 2010, Spring/Summer 2011, Fall 2011, Spring/Summer 2015. These issues were loose when donated and were not a part of any pre-established order or foldering system.


It is anticipated that the Furious Flower Poetry Center will continue to donate conference files approximately every ten years and other administrative records on a more frequent basis.

Other Formats Available

Processing of audiovisual content is in-process as of April 2022. Access will be made available to content once processing is complete, barring any copyright or use restrictions.

Separated Materials

A copy of Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy Buena Vista, Va.: Mariner Publishing, 2009 and 73 Poems for 73 Years: Celebrating the Life of Lucille Clifton Harrisonburg, Va.: Virginia Tech Printing Services, 2010 were removed from Series 2, catalogued, and placed in the Special Collections rare book collection.

The following titles were removed from Series 3 and catalogued: Opala, Joseph A. The Gullah: rice, slavery and the Sierra Leone-American connection. Freetown, Sierra Leone: USIS, 1987; Opala, Joseph. Krio in a nutshell.: Krio Grammar with Lessons, Exercise and Vocabulary, Vol. 1. Freetown, Sierra Leone: [publisher not identified], 1991; Opala, Joseph. Krio in a nutshell.: Krio Conversation with Dialogues, Stories, Proverbs, etc., Vol. 2. Freetown, Sierra Leone: [publisher not identified], 1991; Geraty, Virginia Mixson. Bittle en' t'ing': Gullah cooking with Maum Chrish'. Orangeburg, S.C.: Sandlapper Pub., 1992.

A broadside printing of Rita Dove's "Ode to My Right Knee" (no. 39 of 100) was removed from the collection and cataloged separately.


  • "Furious Flower Poetry Center." James Madison University. Accessed August 09, 2016.

Processing Information

The donor’s original order, including folder titles, was maintained whenever possible. The archivist imposed an order on any unordered files, titled any untitled files, and created discrete series. Social security numbers and bank account numbers have been redacted from materials. When possible, newspapers and clippings were photocopied and originals returned to donor. All material contained within three-ring binders was disbound and foldered in original order. During processing several folders were discovered to be empty. Their folder titles are as follows: Dream in Color Drafts, WHSV Children First 2010, WVPT Kid’s Book Festival 2010, Poetry Month 2010, Winter Poetry Contest 2010, Marilyn Nelson Reading 2010, 73 Poems Honorariums (Music). The empty folders were discarded. Numerous folders with small purchase credit card statements and receipts were also discarded. Series I has also been renamed "Grants and Financial Files."

In April 2022, the contents of the Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records (UA 0018) were incorporated into the Furious Flower Poetry Center Records (UA 0017) due to the collections' shared provenance and their creation by the same administrative body. The conference records were added as a separate series with subseries for each of the decennial conferences. At this same time, accruals received after initial processing were physically arranged to match their intellectual arrangement. Additional financial files deemed to have limited research value were also weeded in April 2022. Administrative receipts, travel vouchers, travel expenses and reimbursements, travel authorizations, purchase orders, invoices for supplies, monthly detail budget reports, and budget revisions were returned to FFPC.

Processing of audiovisual content is in-process as of April 2022. Access will be made available to content once processing is complete, barring any copyright or use restrictions.

A Guide to the Furious Flower Poetry Center Records, 1970-2021
Tiffany Cole, Phillip Wong, Bodeene Amyot
August 2017, August 2019, April 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019-08-01: Revised to reflect most recent accession of materials.
  • 2019-10-08: Revised to reflect inclusion of FFPC 25th Anniversary materials.
  • 2022-04-27: Revised to include transfer of UA 0018 Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612