Monday, February 09, 2015

“The Most Famous Person Nobody Knows”: Celebrating the Life of an African American Novelist and Poet

Margaret Walker
Margaret Walker has been described as the “most famous person nobody knows,” and if people recognize the name, they probably do not know much about this African American novelist and poet. Margaret Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1915. Both of her parents were teachers and valued education more than anything else. Margaret earned her doctorate from the University of Iowa and spent her career teaching at Jackson State University.

In term of her literary career, she was part of the South Side Writer’s Group whose members include Richard Wright, Arna Bontemps, Fenton Johnson, Theodore Ward, and Frank Marshall Davis. Margaret wrote Richard Wright, Daemonic Genius in which she details their friendship and literary collaborations. Her most famous novel, Jubilee (1966), tells the story of Vyry, the daughter of a white plantation owner and his slave mistress during the antebellum era, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and is based on the life of her great grandmother. Although an accomplished writer, Margaret Walker is best known for her poetry, with her most famous poem being For My People  from the volume of the same name. You can find out more about Margaret Walker by reading the first biography of this remarkable woman entitled Song of My Life published in 2014.

Laura M. Gentry
Southern History Department
Central Library

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