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-Photo Courtesy of Roy Lewis

About | Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival

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 L. Ewing,
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Imani Perry, Paula Giddings,
Vinie Burrows, Maryemma Graham, Carole Gregory, Nic Stone,
Joanne Gabbin, Shelly Lowe and Maria Rosario Jackson

Chair: Ebony Lumumba



Call for Proposals


See the full schedule page for more information. 

Featured Authors & Events:

  • Tonea Stewart, Vinie Burrows, Carole Gregory
    Honoring the Original 1973 Participants
    Opening Reception: Westin Hotel
    6:30 p.m., Wednesday, November 1, 2023
  • Sonia Sanchez, Imani Perry, Joanne Gabbin
    A Tribute to Phillis Wheatley
    Poetry Reading and Conversation
    10:00 am, Thursday, November 2, 2023
    Jackson Convention Complex Theater
  • Angie Thomas, Paula Giddings, and Nic Stone
    Banned Books
    12:30 pm, Thursday, November 2, 2023, Jackson Convention Complex Ballroom
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones and Eve L. Ewing
    From Africa to America
    Reception and Conversation, Moderator: Dana Williams
    6:00 pm, Thursday, November 2, 2023, Jackson State University Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza
  • Jesmyn Ward and Charlayne Hunter-Gault
    Our People
    Plenary Reading and Conversation
    10:00 am, Friday, November 3, 2023, Jackson Convention Complex Theater
  • Alice Walker and Ebony Lumumba
    Our Mothers’ Gardens: A Womanist Legacy
    Luncheon and Keynote Conversation
    12:30 pm, Friday, November 3, 2023, Jackson Convention Complex Ballroom
  • Roy Lewis
    Photographs from the 1973 Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival
    Johnson Hall Art Gallery, November 2, 2023, Jackson State University
    Learn More
  • Maryemma Graham, Shelly Lowe, and Maria Rosario Jackson
    A Tribute to Margaret Walker
    Closing Reception
    6:00 pm, Friday, November 3, 2023, Jackson State University Theater
-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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