-Photo Courtesy of Roy Lewis


Join Us As We Celebrate Our 50th Anniversary Reconvening

We are grateful to have you join us as we celebrate the legacy of Phillis Wheatley, Margaret Walker, and Black women writers who have changed the writing landscape as we know it. The Margaret Walker Center proudly hosts the 50th anniversary reconvening of the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival as we lift up this ongoing work of Black excellence through intergenerational conversations, scholarly analysis, and creative writing.

Keynote Participants:
Jesmyn Ward, Alice Walker, Angie Thomas, Sonia Sanchez,
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tonea Stewart, Eve Ewing,
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Imani Perry, Paula Giddings,
Honoreé Jeffers, Vinie Burrows, Maryemma Graham,
Carole Gregory, Joanne Gabbin, and Shelly Lowe

Chair: Ebony Lumumba



Call for Proposals

Schedule of Events  
Wednesday, November 1 Travel Day
2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration: Westin Hotel
7:00 p.m.-until

Honoring the 1973 Participants

Tonea Stewart, Vinie Burrows, Carole Gregory
Welcome Reception

Thursday, November 2 Jackson State University
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Registration: Westin Hotel and JSU Campus
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

A Tribute to Phillis Wheatley

Sonia Sanchez, Honorée Jeffers, Imani Perry, Joanne Gabbin
Reading and Conversation

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions I
12:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Banned Books

Angie Thomas and Paula Giddings
Luncheon and Conversation

2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Concurrent Readings I
6:00 p.m.-until

From Africa to America

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Eve Ewing
Reception and Conversation

Friday, November 3 Jackson State University
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Registration (Hotel and campus)
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Our People

Jesmyn Ward and Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Reading and Conversation

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions II
12:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Our Mothers’ Gardens: A Womanist Legacy

Alice Walker and Ebony Lumumba
Luncheon and Conversation

2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Concurrent Readings II
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Authors Alley
6:00 p.m.-until

A Tribute to Margaret Walker

Maryemma Graham and Shelly Lowe
Closing Reception and Conversation

Saturday, November 4 Travel Day
  Tours TBD
  Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Bravo Series
-Photo Courtesy of Roy Lewis


Through thickest gloom look back, immortal shade, on that confusion which thy death has made.

Phillis Wheatley


In 1973, Margaret Walker hosted a groundbreaking conference  for Black women writers for the bicentennial of Phillis Wheatley’s work Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Under the Black Studies Institute that Walker had founded five years earlier at Jackson State, thirty of these leading women participated in a series of lectures, roundtable discussions, poetry readings, and other events on campus.


Before You Knew
You Owned It


Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.
Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.
Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.



Jackson State University is designated as a “higher research activity” institution by the Carnegie Foundation.

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