The Furious Flower Poetry Center is the nation’s first academic center for Black Poetry. In 1994, James Madison University, under the leadership and direction of professor of English Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, hosted the first Furious Flower Poetry Conference entitled, “A Revolution in African American Poetry.” This conference, dedicated to acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks, 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.
Subsequent conferences were “Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition,” in 2004, and “Seeding the Future of African American Poetry,” in 2014. Conference programming is comprised of concerts, readings, roundtable and panel discussions, and paper presentations.
Today, the Furious Flower Poetry Center 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.
This collection of videos documents the 1994 and 2004 conference proceedings, as well as other Furious Flower events. The videos belong to two archival collections, Furious Flower Poetry Center Records, 1990-2014, UA0017 , and the Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records, 1970-2009 (bulk 1992-2005), located in Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University. The collections will be updated as the media is processed.