Margaret Walker was an American poet and writer. She was part of the African-American literary movement in Chicago. Her notable works include the award-winning poem For My People (1942) and the novel Jubilee (1966), set in the South during the American Civil War.
Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, her family moved to New Orleans when Walker was a young girl. She attended school there, including several years of college, before she moved north to Chicago.
In 1935, Walker received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Northwestern University. In 1936 she began work with the Federal Writers’ Project under the Works Progress Administration of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. She was a member of the South Side Writers Group, which included authors such as Richard Wright, Arna Bontemps, Fenton Johnson, Theodore Ward, and Frank Marshall Davis.
In 1942, she received her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa. In 1965, she returned to that school to earn her Ph.D.
Walker became a literature professor at what is today Jackson State University, a historically black college, where she taught from 1949 to 1979. In 1968, Walker founded the Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black People (now the Margaret Walker Center); her personal papers are now held there. In 1976, she went on to serve as the Institute’s director.