Student Portal: “Alabama Landscape” by Mari Evans

“Alabama Landscape”
by Mari Evans
As an educator, writer, and musician, Mari Evans’ (1923-2017) work has been anthologized and translated for her audiences around the world. Evans played a major role in influencing the Black Arts Movement and is known for speaking the truth and saying that which is difficult. Through her statements about what she saw and how she reacted, she captured a wide range of tones and emotions through her work. One such work, “Alabama Landscape,” was written in response to state violence against unarmed people of color. As an artist and activist for social change, Evans used her talents to provide a voice for the voiceless in her community.

Mari Evans reads “Alabama Landscape”

Alabama Landscape

See the ancient underbrush
the disciplined entanglement
wild welt of trees and gullies
traps of mud and broken branch
the hairline brook, the secret water
see the stirring, see him coming
modulating thru the silence
leaping sinkholes, torn confusion
buckling knees then grace regained
he ducks and dodges
		Black man running
    claiming Freedom
thru the ageless sun and shadow
vanishes from sight he is at once both
Past and Present, history repeated
	history relearned

History relived
the Present savagely contrived, the
Past still swollen, still unhealed and 
	All transition merely language.
What was tar, and rope, and flame was 
	rape and scrounge
		is magnum now,
    is unrelenting chokehole

	   Sanctioned lynchings
		Still orgasmic

The time is surely near
when we reluctantly have learned 
what lessons time intends to teach
And such intransigence as now
is veiled and hid we will release
When “for their thousand blows” return
	a thousand ten
However unannounced, the Truth is clear:
Until we stand, until we act
the murders, the oppression still
	    the unabated war
	we seem unable to define
		goes on

Black man running
thru the ageless sun and shadow
	still unavenged
History repeated past all logic
Who is it bides the time and why?
	And for how long?
There will be no one left, for ovens

Reader Response Questions

1. What is something you see happening in your school or community that needs to be addressed but is overlooked by the adults in charge? Describe the situation.

2. Think about an issue that you care deeply about that effects your community or the world at large. If failure were not an option, how would you use your voice for change to call people to take action?

History and Culture

1. Through its history of slavery and systematic racism, Alabama has historically been considered one of the most dangerous states in the country for the safety and rights of African Americans. What is the significance of time in this poem? How is the speaker running through time?

2. In her introduction to the reading, Evans mentioned police brutality, specifically the murdering of a young Black man. Evans described this incident as the catalyst that caused her to use her voice and talents to make a change. What is the obligation of society to speak out against injustice? What are the consequences of staying silent in the face of injustice?

3. Throughout the Civil Rights Era, the African American community shared a complex relationship with journalism— stories related to the movement were often ignored or reported inaccurately. In response to these injustices, other magazines, such as Jet, worked tirelessly to use their platforms to provide factual news to the community. In your opinion, what is the role of writing in social movements? How can writing be a source of truth? What is a journalist or author’s obligation to tell the truth in his or her writing?

Poet's Craft and Structure


1. Evans uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the fight for survival in Alabama. Describe the Alabama that Evans presents through her poem. What is the effect of using such a treacherous landscape as the setting for this poem?

2. Evans states that the past is “still swollen, still unhealed.” This line is an example of personification, the attribution of human characteristics to something nonhuman. What is the significance of giving time human qualities? How does this represent the past and present of the fight for freedom in African American history and culture?


1. In her poem, Evans emphasizes the significance of time and the repetition of history. She states that the subject of the poem, the "Black man running", is “at once both / past and present, history repeated / history relearned.” How does the influence of time affect the way you view the subjects of justice and freedom? How can someone represent both the past and the present?


1. Evans made intentional choices when crafting the structure of “Alabama Landscape.” The lines of the poem weave and wind to form a zig-zagging motion, mimicking the frantic movements of someone running for their life. Identify the person running in the poem and describe 2-3 ways in which the structure of the poem embodies his movement.

Reading and Writing Connections

1. Throughout history, artists have used their voices to stand up against injustice when they feel that the government has turned its back on their community. Music and art have often been a major proponent for social change. Write a song or draw/paint a picture that depicts taking a stand for something you believe in.


2. Throughout the Black Arts Movement, Evans wrote poetry to fight for social change. Think of something in your school or community that you feel passionate about changing. Write a letter, speech, or a poem from your own perspective that explains what you see and your reaction to it.