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Life and Achievements

1915: Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander was born on July 7 in Birmingham, Alabama, to Reverend Sigismund C. Walker and Marion Dozier Walker. Reverend Walker was a Jamaican immigrant who came to America for school. Well-educated, he was a Methodist minister and a professor. Her mother was a music teacher. Walker had three siblings: sisters Gwendolyn and Mercedes and brother Sigismund, Jr.

1925: Walker family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Margaret attended Gilbert Academy for high school.
Northwestern Seal
1935: after two years at New Orleans University (now Dillard University), Margaret transferred to Northwestern University in Chicago after encouragement from Langston Hughes. She earned a B.A. in English, with a focus on the Romantic poets.

1936: worked for Federal Writers' Project, a program under President Roosevelt's Works Project Administration. While there, she befriended notable figures such as Richard Wright (whom she would later write a biography on) and Gwendolyn Brooks and was witness to the struggles African Americans faced during the Great Migration.
Poetry Magazine
1937: the poem "For My People" was published in Poetry magazine. It would later be anthologized in The Negro Caravan and become the first poem in a book of the same title.

1940: received a master of arts from the University of Iowa.

1941: taught at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

1942: taught at West Virginia State College. Published the first volume of For My People, which contains the poems "Sorrow Home" and "Southern Song." (analyzed here)

1943: married Firnist James Alexander, an interior designer and decorator.

1949: moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and began teaching at Jackson State College.Poets

1965: received a Ph.D

1966: published Jubilee, a neo-slave narrative that was based on the memories of her maternal grandmother, Elvira Ware Dozier.

1968: founded the Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black People while at Jackson. She also organized and chaired the Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival.

: published Prophets for a New Day, a poetic treatment of the civil rights struggle with a focus on African American folktales.

1973: published Although October Journey.
Book Cover
1974: published A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker.

1979: retired from teaching. 

1986: published For Farish Street Green.

1989: published This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems.

1990: published How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature (a republication from an essay written in 1972).

1997: published On Being Female, Black, and Free: Essays by Margaret Walker 1932-1992.

1998: died on November 30 of cancer.

Unfinished Works:

"God Touched My Life," biography of Sister Thea Bowman, a black nun in Mississippi.

"Black-Eyed Susans," an account of the murders of two students at Jackson State College.

Untitled book on Jesse Jackson's relationship to black politics and an untitled autobiography.


1942: Yale Younger Poets Award for her text For My People.
1944: Rosenwald Fellowship
1968: Houghton Mifflin Literary Award for Jubilee.
1972: Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities
inducted into the African American Literary Hall of Fame