Margaret Walker Alexander
Margaret Walker Alexander,
best known for her neo-slave narrative Jubilee and the poem
“For My People,” was born Maragret Abigail Walker on
July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama. Encouraged by her parents,
Reverend Sigismund and Marion Dozier Walker, Margaret read much
poetry and philosophy as a young child. She received her Bachelor
of Arts Degree at Northwestern University in 1935, and in 1936 began
working with the Federal Writers Project along with writers
such as Frank Yerby and Gwendolyn Brooks. A few years later, she
would meet and become acquaintances with Richard
Wright; the two would work together on several of his textsin
1988, she published Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius: A Portrait
of the Man, a Critical Look at His Work.
her master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Iowa
in 1942, which is when she was also awarded the Yale Award for Young
Poets for “For My People.” She then became a professor at Jackson
State University; in 1966, Alexander published Jubilee, the
life story of a slave daughter. Two years after receiving critical
acclaim for Jubilee, she founded the Institute for the Study
of the History, Life and Culture of Black People in 1968. She worked
as the director of the program for 11 years; later, it would be
renamed in her honor. Ms. Walker then toured, lectured, and worked
on For Farish Street Green, February 27, 1986 (1986) and
This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (1989).
Ms. Walker sued author Alex Haley, alleging that his book Roots infringed on Jubilees copyright; the case was dismissed
Ms. Walker’s awards are the Rosenwald Fellowship (1944), a Senior
Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (1972),
and the WHite House Award for Distinguished Senior Citizen. She
died in Chicago of cancer on November 30, 1998. She was 83 years
Article first posted April
Related Links & Info
Margaret Walker Alexander was among the Southern writers who were
photographed by David G. Spielman for the book Southern
Writers, text by William W. Starr, Foreword by Fred Hobson
(Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997)
Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State
University is a national resource for collecting, preserving, and
interpreting 20th Century African American History though living
memories, archival records, material culture, and the built environment.
- Jubilee. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.
A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret
Walker. Washington: Howard University, 1974.
- Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man, A Critical
Look at His Work. New York: Warner Books, 1988.
How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays
on Life and Literature. Ed. Maryemma Graham. New York: Feminist
Press at the City University of New York, 1990.
- On Being Female, Black, and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker,
1932-1992. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997.
- For My People. New Haven: Yale University Press,
- The Ballad of the Free. Detroit: Broadside Press,
- Prophets for a New Day. Detroit: Broadside Press,
- October Journey. Detroit: Broadside Press, 1973.
- For Farish Street Green, February 27, 1986. Jackson,
- This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1989.
Articles, Interviews, and Criticism:
- Allego, Donna M. The Construction and Role of Community in
Political Long Poems by Twentieth-Century American Women Poets:
Lola Ridge, Genevieve Taggard, Joy Davidman, Margaret Walker, and
Muriel Rukeyser. Dissertation Abstracts International
58 (1997): 3521.
- Barksdale, Richard K. “Margaret Walker: Folk Orature and
Historical Prophecy.” Black American Poets between Worlds,
1940-1960. Ed. R. Baxter Miller. Knoxville: University of Tennessee
Press, 1986. 104-17.
- Bonetti, Kay. “An Interview with Margaret Walker Alexander.”
Missouri Review 15.1 (1992): 112-31.
- Bonetti, Kay. “Margaret Walker.” Conversations
with American Novelists: The Best Interviews from The Missouri Review
and the American Audio Prose Library. Eds. Kay Bonetti, et al.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997. 170-83.
- Caton, Bill. “Margaret Walker Alexander.” Fighting
Words: Words on Writing from 21 of the Heart of Dixie’s Best
Contemporary Authors. Eds. Bill Caton and Bert Hitchcock. Montgomery,
Ala.: Black Belt. 1995.
- Collier, Eugenia. “Fields Watered with Blood: Myth and Ritual
in the Poetry of Margaret Walker.” Black Women Writers
(1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation. Ed. Mari Evans. Garden City,
N.Y.: Anchor-Doubleday, 1984. 499-510.
- Edwards, Michael Le Roy. The Rhetoric of Afro-American Poetry:
A Rhetorical Analysis of Black Poetry and the Selected Poetry of
Margaret Walker and Langston Hughes. Dissertation Abstracts
International. 41 (1980): 1835A. 1980.
- Egejuru, Phanuel, and Robert Elliot Fox. “An Interview with
Margaret Walker.” Callaloo: A Black South Journal of Arts
and Letters 2.2 (1979):
- Freibert, Lucy M. “Southern Song: An Interview with Margaret
Walker.” Frontiers a Journal of Women Studies
9.3 (1987): 50-56.
- Giddings, Paula. “A Shoulder Hunched Against a Sharp
Concern’: Some Themes in the Poetry of Margaret Walker.”
Black World 21.2: 20-25.
- Graham, Maryemma. “The Fusion of Ideas An Interview
with Margaret Walker Alexander.” African American Review
27.2 (Summer 1993): 279-86.
- Keizs, Marcia Veronica. The Development of a Dialectic: Private
and Public Patterns in the Work of Margaret Walker and Gwendolyn
Brooks. Dissertation Abstracts International 45 (1985):
- Miller, R. Baxter. “The Etched Flame’ of Margaret
Walker: Biblical and Literary Re-Creation in Southern History.”
Tennessee Studies in Literature 26 (1981): 157-72.
- Pettis, Joyce. “Margaret Walker: Black Woman Writer of the
South.” Southern Women Writers: The New Generation.
Ed. Tonette Bond Inge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press,
- Rowell, Charles. “History and Humanism: An Interview with
Margaret Walker.” Black World 25.2 (1975): 4-17.
- Tate, Claudia. “Margaret Walker.” Black Women Writers
at Work. Ed. Claudia Tate. New York: Continuum, 1983. 188-204.
- Torrence, Juanita Marie McFalls. A Literary Equation: A Comparison
of Representative Works of Margaret Walker and Nikki Giovanni.
Dissertation Abstracts International 40 (1980): 6283A-84A.
- Traylor, Eleanor. “Music as Theme: The Blues Mode in the
Works of Margaret Walker.” Black Women Writers (1950-1980):
A Critical Evaluation. Ed. Mari Evans. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor-Doubleday,
- Ward, Jerry W., Jr. “A Writer for Her People: An Interview
with Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander.” Mississippi Quarterly
41.4 (Fall 1988): 515-27.
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