64 Parishes

Current Issue

A Divine Epiphany

Freddi Williams Evans is the Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities awardee

Published: June 1, 2024
Last Updated: June 7, 2024

A Divine Epiphany

Photo by Freddye Hill

Freddi Williams Evans, the Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities Awardee for 2024.

Freddi Williams Evans had a divine epiphany later in her life—her purpose was to be a writer, something she initially felt she had no expertise to do. Her journey from a music and psychology major to an internationally known author and historian is remarkable. The Tougaloo College Hall of Famer is a retired Jefferson Parish Schools arts educator and administrator, where she developed curricula, assessed students, and trained educators. Her passion for history and writing catapulted her into a worldwide classroom where she has educated her city, community, and the world about the South and Africa. Evans credits her participation in New Orleans’s NOMMO Literary Society, a Black writers workshop, with developing her writing and research skills. That foundation of community and responsibility has driven her work as a scholar.   

The Mississippi native has authored six books—three children’s books and three works of nonfiction—and created Let’s KNOW, a series of card games for ages eight and up about the history and culture of Louisiana, to be released in 2024. Wynton Marsalis lauded her book Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans as a “defining history.” The book influenced the New Orleans City Council to pass an ordinance on April 28, 2011, officially restoring the name Congo Square to the site. In 2022 she launched the digital platform congosquareconnection.org to promote the study of Congo Square’s past and present. Evans’s work helps to preserve the history and significance of Congo Square for future generations.
Evans identified her goal as a writer: “to promote, preserve, and share untold and under-told stories of the African American experience.” Her ability to make history accessible for adults and children is respected by scholars and grassroots communities; she is trusted to care for and write the stories and history of culture bearers and icons. As the former dean of Ashé Cultural Arts Center’s Institute for Cultural Education, she developed a multidisciplinary in-service program for teachers, parents, and children that promoted hands-on learning of the African diaspora. Evans is included in The HistoryMakers,a national digital repository of testimonials from African Americans involved in special places and events in history. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, there’s an arts camp that bears her name.  

 Her contributions to the humanities field include co-chairing the New Orleans Committee to Erect Markers on the Slave Trade to Louisiana, helping to establish the UNESCO Site of Memory Middle Passage marker on the New Orleans Westbank, and serving on the New Orleans Legacy Project Committee. As a consultant for The Helis Foundation John Scott Center, Evans has taken great care to preserve the legacy of artist John Scott. She is co-author, with Anna Rita Scott, of the forthcoming book Pass It On: The Art of John Scott. She serves on the Congo Square Preservation Society and Louisiana Historical Records Advisory Boards. She is also a member of Christian Unity Baptist Church’s Missions Ministry and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. 

The Louisiana Endowment for Humanities salutes Freddi Williams Evans with the 2024 Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Award.

Kelly Harris-DeBerry is a poet and the author of Freedom Knows My Name. Read and listen to more of her work at kellyhd.com.