Donald Evans was a playwright and key contributor to the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s. He was also a longtime professor and administrator at The College of New Jersey, teaching courses in English and African American Studies. One of his most popular offerings was a course on the History of Jazz, cross-listed between African American Studies and music. He also taught a course on Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes. Among other distinctions, he was a founding member of the National Black Theater Network.
Evans is credited with a spoken word and jazz recording, “The Black Americans/Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the Jewel Record label, released in 1974.
Although Evans died in 1983 at the age of 65, History of Jazz is still taught regularly. Evans is also the father of jazz pianist Orrin Evans, as well as writers Todd Evans and Rachel Marriano. In the video above, they perform the music and spoken word piece, Captain Black’s Prelude/Easy Now along with the Captain Black Big Band. (Captain Black was a nickname that Evans’ children had for him.)
At TCNJ, Evans is memorialized through the Don Evans Black Box Theater in Kendall Hall, as well as the Don Evans Memorial Endowment. The Trenton Makes Music project has received financial support from the Evans endowment.
New York Times obituary.
Evan’s play, “A Lovesong for Miss Lydia,” was broadcast on New Jersey Network in the 1970s. You can watch it here: