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Joanne V. Gabbin Papers

Identifier: SC 0296
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Joanne V. Gabbin Papers, 1930-2017 [bulk 1960-2017], contain the professional, academic, and personal papers of Joanne V. Gabbin, professor of English at James Madison University and director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. The materials chiefly relate to her professional role as an influential figure in the African American literary community and include manuscripts she wrote or edited, notes and materials from events where she spoke or was featured, and her correspondence with publishers, professional organizations, and other members of the African American literary community. Other materials include articles for research or teaching purposes, syllabi, documents and correspondence related to her role as professor and head of the JMU Honors College, personal correspondence, and documents related to her role as director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center.


  • Creation: 1930-2017
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2017


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research. 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

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. Staff have taken special care to identify and remove sensitive materials, particularly those relating to students' academic records, found within this collection. However, in rare instances, privacy protected information may be revealed during use of this collection. Researchers agree to make no notes or other recordation of privacy protected information if found within this collection, and further agree not to publish or disclose such information for any purpose. Researchers agree to alert Special Collections staff if potentially privacy protected information is found within this collection. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

A professor of English at James Madison University, Joanne Gabbin earned her B.A. from Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967, and received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1970 and 1980, respectively. Gabbin taught at Roosevelt University, Chicago State University, and Lincoln University before she was hired at James Madison University in 1985 as a Commonwealth Visiting Professor. She became the director of the Honors Program (now the Honors College) in 1986, where she served for 19 years and founded many programs that define the Honors College today.

In 1994, she organized the first Furious Flower Poetry Conference, which she held at JMU and in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks. The event was considered historic and likely the largest gathering of African American poets and literature scholars to that date. After a second successful conference a decade later, JMU chartered the Furious Flower Poetry Center in 2005, the nation’s first academic center devoted to Black poetry.

The author/editor of numerous books and founder of the Wintergreen Women Writers’ Collective, Gabbin’s contributions to the academic field of African American poetry have been acknowledged with awards and honors from such organizations as the HistoryMakers Archives, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the College Language Association and the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, among many others. Her publications include Sterling A. Brown: Building the Black Aesthetic Tradition (1985), which was reissued in 1994 by the University Press of Virginia and the children’s book I Bet She Called Me Sugar Plum (2004). She also edited The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry (1999), Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present (2004), Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry (2020), Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers (2009), and Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy (2009).


12.54 cubic feet (42 boxes)

134 Megabytes (216 digital files)

Language of Materials



The Joanne V. Gabbin Papers, 1930-2017 [bulk 1960-2017], contain the professional, academic, and personal papers of Joanne V. Gabbin, professor of English at James Madison University and director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center.


The collection is arranged in six series. Series 3 and Series 5 are arranged further into subseries. Each series is arranged chronologically except for Series 1: Manuscripts which is arranged alphabetically. Exceptions to this arrangement scheme were made in order to group like materials (e.g. photographs, newspaper clippings) together. As a result chronological arrangements are approximate. In order to maintain original intellectual order, photographs and correspondence, for example, may be found across multiple series.

  1. Manuscripts, 1930-2015
  2. Research, 1960-2016
  3. Professional Activities, 1963-2017
  4. Teaching Materials, 1971-2013
  5. Personal Papers, 1967-2016
  6. Printed Ephemera and Photographs, 1961-2013

Acquisition Information

Materials were donated by Joanne V. Gabbin in September 2017.

Appraisal Information

Two boxes filled with empty file folders were recycled prior to processing.

Related Material

Furious Flower Poetry Center Records, 1990-2014, UA 0017, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records, 1970-2015, UA 0018, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Separated Materials

Three poetry broadsides printed in 2017 at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center for the Virginia Festival of the Book - Heavenly Madrigal, Seasons Change Before We're Ready, and Zombie Blues Villanelle - were removed from the collection and cataloged individually. These broadsides are held by Special Collections.

Processing Information

Collection was donated in clearly labeled folders housed in multiple cubic boxes. In Feburary 2017, Cardinal House experienced a flood as a result of plumbing issues. Materials in this collection were affected and may exhibit water damage. Processors used labels as direction for series arrangement, and focused on discards of duplicates and assessing water-damage materials. Afterwards, materials were moved to hollingers and additional accruals were integrated into the existing arrangement.

Duplicate newspapers, newsletters, brochures, articles, etc. were discarded. Financial records including receipts, credit card and bank statements, and travel reimbursements were not retained and were discarded. Student records containing personally identifiable information (student identification numbers, GPAs, grades, etc.)—beyond what is considered directory information—were removed and discarded.

A Guide to the Joanne V. Gabbin Papers, 1930-2017 [bulk 1960-2017]
Mitchell Teal, Phillip Wong
January 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

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