The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Freddi Evans

Children’s book author Freddi Williams Evans was born in 1957 and grew up in Madison, Mississippi. As a child, her parents, Reverend R. L. and Carrie Cotten Williams, traveled frequently across the United States. Evans studied piano from an early age and graduated from Tougaloo College with her B.A. degrees in music and psychology. While at Tougaloo, she also was able to travel to West Africa where she studied the traditional music of Ghana. Her love of travel and the arts influenced her desire to write her stories. She continued her education at Hahnemann University in Pennsylvania where she received her Masters degree in creative arts therapy with an emphasis in music.

Evans worked in Philadelphia before marrying and moving to New Orleans, Louisiana where she began working as a music therapist. She was a Fulbright Scholar twice, going to Zimbabwe in 1995 and South Africa in 2000. In addition to working as an arts educator and administrator for the Jefferson Parish Public School System, Evans worked as an independent consultant for various organizations including: Orleans Parish Public Schools, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, Louisiana State Department of Education and the Mississippi Arts Commission. In 2003, she authored her first children’s book, Bus of Our Own which received many accolades including the 2004 Mississippi Book Award. Her second and third books followed in 2005 and 2008 with The Battle of New Orleans: The Drummer’s Storyand Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret. Her fourth book, Come Sunday: New Orleans’ Congo Square, a history book for general audiences, is due in 2010.

Evans has received several awards for her work in education including the Mazie Malveaux VSA Award in 1998 for her service to Louisiana students with disabilities and the Special Congressional Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts in 2002.

Freddi Evans was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 9, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.053

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/9/2010

Last Name

Evans

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Williams

Occupation
Schools

Tougaloo College

Hanhnemann University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Freddi

Birth City, State, Country

Jackson

HM ID

EVA05

Favorite Season

Fall, Winter

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Pursue purpose with a passion.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

2/13/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Author and music therapist Freddi Evans (1957 - ) writes children's books based on African American history and has won several awards for her work including the Special Congressional Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts.

Employment

Jefferson Parish Public Schools

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Green, Pink

Timing Pairs
0,0:4514,147:6457,183:7395,203:7864,212:8132,217:21796,419:22384,428:31322,546:36034,642:44828,832:46004,838:46494,844:63346,1080:63994,1093:64282,1098:65218,1114:65650,1122:72094,1242:77478,1318:78674,1336:87762,1496:88058,1501:92827,1534:100875,1644:101541,1653:104262,1691:104498,1696:105501,1720:105855,1727:110061,1776:110385,1782:110709,1787:111438,1797:121077,1967:122373,1985:127636,2020:128092,2027:130483,2071:131147,2086:131562,2092:138170,2160:150306,2304:154440,2366$0,0:5076,53:5850,64:8860,128:9720,145:20940,270:30096,467:31976,495:36488,582:38180,641:54051,887:73196,1128:88964,1321:89424,1327:91632,1386:117652,1812:123336,1912:128094,1954:128464,1961:134828,2081:139046,2224:139416,2230:148420,2336:156018,2488:168650,2751:172900,2794:176754,2870:177600,2880:178070,2886:194150,3044
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Freddi Evans' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Freddi Evans lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Freddi Evans describes her mother's growing up in Madison County, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Freddi Evans talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Freddi Evans talks about her great-grandfather's and her grandfather's land ownership

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Freddi Evans talks about her relationship with her maternal grandfather, Edward David Cotton

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Freddi Evans talks about her maternal great-grandfather being a slave and his life after Emancipation

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Freddi Evans talks about her father's growing up in Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Freddi Evans talks about her paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Freddi Evans talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Freddi Evans describes the home where she grew up in Madison, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Freddi Evans describes her neighborhood in Madison, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Freddi Evans describes her experience in elementary school in Madison, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Freddi Evans talks about playing the piano as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Freddi Evans describes the sights, sounds and smells of elementary school in Madison, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Freddi Evans talks about her favorite teachers and her interest in math in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Freddi Evans talks about the integration of her school in Madison, Mississippi in the early 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Freddi Evans talks about her extracurricular activities in school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Freddi Evans describes her experience in a newly-integrated high school in Madison, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Freddi Evans talks about graduating from high school, and being accepted into Tougaloo College as part of early admissions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Freddi Evans talks about the discrimination she experienced in her newly-integrated high school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Freddi Evans talks about her family's involvement in civic life

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Freddi Evans talks about her family's involvement with church in Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Freddi Evans talks about graduating from high school in 1973

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Freddi Evans talks about her social life in school, attending summer programs, and traveling with her family during the summers

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Freddi Evans talks about traveling with her family in the segregated South, and her parents' jobs

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Freddi Evans talks about attending Tougaloo College, where she majored in music and psychology

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Freddi Evans talks about the music department at Tougaloo College and her trip to Ghana while she was there

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Freddi Evans talks about the similarities between the religious practices of African Americans in the South and in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Freddi Evans talks about her senior year at Tougaloo College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Freddi Evans describes her experience in graduate school at Hahnemann University and the field of music therapy

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Freddi Evans talks about her marriage and her children

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Freddi Evans talks about her work at the Juvenile Court Services in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Freddi Evans describes her role as an artist administrator

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Freddi Evans talks about her Fulbright Scholarships and her trips to Africa and Japan

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Freddi Evans talks about her inspiration for her first book

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Freddi Evans describes her uncles' school bus business in Madison, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Freddi Evans describes her uncles' school bus business in Madison, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Freddi Evans talks about her children as her inspiration to publish her first children's book

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Freddi Evans talks about her first book getting published

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Freddi Evans talks about her second book, entitled, 'The Battle of New Orleans: The Drummer's Story'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Freddi Evans describes her experience during Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Freddi Evans describes her experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Freddi Evans talks about her third book, entitled, 'Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Freddi Evans describes the story of her book entitled, 'Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Freddi Evans discusses the history of Congo Square in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Freddi Evans discusses her civic activities and the awards that she has received for her books

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Freddi Evans talks about her decision to major in classical music and her research role model from the University of Ghana at Accra

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Freddi Evans shares her message to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Freddi Evans reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Freddi Evans reflects upon the history of her family in Mississippi

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$9

DATitle
Freddi Evans talks about the integration of her school in Madison, Mississippi in the early 1970s
Freddi Evans talks about her inspiration for her first book
Transcript
And as you moved on, you stayed at that school [Rosa Scott Elementary School, Madison, Mississippi] until you graduated?$$No, I stayed there until integration, until full integration because--$$But what year was that because 'Brown vs. The Board of Education'--$$I know, right.$$--was a long time [1954]. This is, we're already--if you're in first grade, 1961--$$Exactly.$$So, I mean integration should have happened, which it didn't, so--$$It didn't.$$--what year are you speaking of?$$Let me see, maybe around '70 [1970]. I'm not really sure exactly. I went to Tougaloo [College, Jackson, Mississippi] in '73 [1973], and I was there two years. So maybe '71 [1971] or--$$You were in--$$--'70 [1970] or '71 [1971].$$What grade?$$You know, I didn't go to twelfth grade, so I think it must have been tenth grade or something like that, tenth grade because I was there two years in the integrated school.$$Okay, so you went to Rosa Scott until the tenth grade?$$Probably to the ninth grade.$$Ninth grade, okay.$$And I went there for tenth and eleventh grade, yeah. And that was what we call full integration, of course, because then we could go to the school. Before that, we had "Freedom of Choice," and you could select. So some of the black children opted to go to the school, to the white, predominantly white school. But then after the Freedom of Choice opportunity passed, then it was like, okay, we have one high school. And so that high school became the white, predominantly white high school. And Rosa Scott ended up being maybe an elementary school or something. Right now, it's a middle school in Madison. But that was the norm, is that, if there's only going to be one high school, it would be the school that was the white high school. And things were very, very different because at Rosa Scott, we had band, we had choir, we had all of the sports. We had library. It was just, had a rich, rich extracurricular, extra curriculum activities, opportunities for students. But when we went to the school that became the high school, the white high school, all of those activities were stopped. They didn't allow band nor choir. Sports continued, you know, there was still a basketball team, still a football team, but nothing that the students could interact, you know, with, or during or any kind of extracurricular activities for students.$When did you decide to write your first book?$$Oh, I decided to write my first, I first started off with poetry, and I know the first manuscript that I attempted to write was based on my aunt who--was that the first one? I think that was the first one, who was like my grandmother [Geraldine Foster Cotten]. She kept my grandfather's [Edward David Cotten] home, the Cotten home, house. Do you remember me talking about the land? And as, when I grew up, I thought that she was my grandmother because she lived there with my grandfather. And, you know, we just--she just had the presence of a grandmother, you know, always accepting, and always had food for you, teacakes and milk. It was clabbered milk, but it was, you know, what we knew.$$It was what kind of milk?$$Clabbered milk. Now, I don't know--well, she milked cows, right? So for clabbered milk, you don't put it in the refrigerator. And it develops clabber, I guess, is what it's called. But, you know, I ate it all my life, and then when I went to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], and I started eating yogurt, I said, you know, this is clabbered milk. So it's basically yogurt. But she always had cake or either teacakes for us to eat along with it. So, she was the grandmother figure to me. And when I found out that she had cancer, and I wanted to write about her. I wanted to write something. And so I started writing something about her teacakes. And she did read my draft, one or two drafts, but, you know, that book has not developed yet. And I believe it will, you know, but I did write poems about her. As a matter of fact, one was published in her funeral program, maybe two. Yeah, one was published in her funeral program, and I did a separate tribute to her on her, at her funeral. And then at my uncle's funeral, who's my oldest uncle on that side, I heard about the bus because, see, in rural Mississippi, when there's a funeral, there is a program. But there's also a section on the program where people whose names are not on program can get up and say something (laughter). So, during that time period, when anybody could get up and talk and make a tribute, someone said, well, I would like to thank Mr. Cotten for bringing the first school bus to the colored children. And so I started asking on the way to the graveyard, what about this school bus, you know? Tell me about the bus, riding in the car with my brother [Ray Williams], who is totally different from me. You can already know because he was Stokely [Carmichael], right? And so he knows and socializes and talks to everybody, quite different from me. And he goes, you don't know nothing. That bus stayed in the pasture for years, you know. We just cut it up for scrap metal a couple of years ago. So, okay, the bus stayed there until I became interested in it, right? And then I started interviewing my relatives about this bus, you know. Who, why, how, you know, how did he get it, when, and all of that. And so I developed the storyline, and it was called "The Bus for Us."