Educator Evelyn Patterson Burrell shared African-American heritage


Evelyn Patterson Burrell, a teacher and poet whose love of learning made it seem as if she was always in school, died of heart failure July 15 at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center. She was 78.

Poetry and drama were two of her passions, and she applied them to the African-American experience. To this end, she was Writer in Residence for the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture in the early 1980s and held workshops at the Enoch Pratt Free Library to infect others with her enthusiasm for poetry.

Her play "Weep No More" was performed by the Arena Players in 1979.

Born Evelyn Patterson in West Baltimore in 1916, she attended ** old School No. 104 near Presstman Street and, according to a sister, fell in love with the written word early.

"She just loved to read and write," recalled Martha P. Allen, who said young Evelyn's desire to put pen to paper began in grade school.

After graduating from Douglass High School in 1932, Mrs. Burrell received an English degree from what was then Morgan State College and a master's degree from Howard University. She earned a second master's degree in education from St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M.

"Learning was one of her joys," Mrs. Allen said.

Dedicated to seeing that African-Americans received an education as good as anyone else's, Mrs. Burrell devoted her career to imparting what she had worked so hard to learn. She taught at several Baltimore public schools and in Washington before working in higher education. Her expertise was English and African-American studies.

She taught at Bowie State College from 1969 to 1970 and was an assistant English professor at Coppin State College from 1971 until her 1976 retirement. She also taught part time in the English Department of Hood College in Frederick from 1973 to 1974.

With her husband, she started New Genesis Publishing and one of their books, "Rights of Men," was a book of lectures written and delivered by her father.

Until slowed by a stroke in 1989, she volunteered with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, and the Morgan Women's Club.

"She was very intellectual and she was very political," said David Allen, a nephew. "I would say she was feisty. . . . She was definitely a person who would speak her mind."

Services were to be held at 11 a.m. today at Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church, 1206 Etting St.

William Franklin Burrell, whom she married in 1947, died in February. In addition to her sister, she is survived by a second sister, Grace A. Hines; two brothers, John Elbert Patterson and Sylvester Patterson, all of Baltimore.

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