Study Guide

Margaret Walker

Margaret Walker Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226314-Walker_M.jpgMargaret Walker Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 7, 1915. Her Methodist minister father was Sigismund Constantine Walker. Her mother was Marion Dozier, a musician and teacher. Her maternal grandmother, Elvira Ware Dozier, was the source of Walker’s deep sense of participating in the history of African Americans. The family moved to New Orleans in 1925, and she attended Model School, part of New Orleans University. She began writing when she was twelve, filling a “datebook” given to her by her father. She went to New Orleans University (now Dillard University) and then on to Northwestern University for a B.A. in English in 1934. Edward Buell Hungerford at Northwestern was among her most influential writing teachers. Her first poem was published in W. E. B. Du Bois’s magazine, The Crisis. In March, 1935, she began an important time in the South Side (Chicago) Writers’ Group of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Here she met James T. Farrell, Studs Terkel, Frank Yerby, and Saul Bellow. She finished “For My People” in 1937, publishing it in Poetry that same year. In these years, she would come to know Dudley Randall, Stephen Vincent Benet, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Richard Wright, a biography of whom, Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius, she would publish in 1987. In 1939, she went to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop for an M.A. Accepted as her thesis was a collection of poems, For My People, published as the winner of...

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Margaret Walker Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Margaret Walker set out to have a significant life as writer and spokesperson for African Americans and humanity in general. With the advantage of extraordinary parents, great natural talent, early discovery by cultural leaders, and intense personal discipline, she succeeded. Her discourse is personal and oral and proletarian. In her writing, from poetry to fiction, literary and cultural criticism, and formal biography, she constructs a lyric presence, making herself, as much as African Americans and all other races, the subject of her writing with an art rarely equaled in the canon.

Margaret Walker Biography (Poets and Poetry in America)

Margaret Abigail Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 7, 1915. She was the first of four children of the Reverend Sigismund Constantine Walker, a Methodist minister originally from Jamaica, and Marion Dozier Walker, a musician and teacher. From her scholarly father, Margaret acquired her love of reading, while her mother helped her to develop a sensitivity to the rhythms of music and of poetry. After Margaret’s birth, Marion’s mother, Elvira Ware Dozier, moved in with the family; it was from her that Margaret heard the family stories that she later incorporated into Jubilee.

In 1920, the Walkers moved to Meridian, Mississippi, and enrolled Margaret in first grade. Five years later, the family moved to New Orleans. After graduating from Gilbert Academy in 1930, Margaret enrolled in New Orleans University (now Dillard University), but two years later, she transferred to Northwestern University. In 1934, she published her first poem in W. E. B. Du Bois’s magazine The Crisis. In a creative writing class her senior year, Margaret wrote the first draft of Jubilee. In August, 1935, she received a B.A. in English, and the following March, she began working for the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration. Soon afterward, she joined the (Chicago) South Side Writers Group. During this period, Walker met many writers who would become famous, among them Richard Wright, whom she befriended. In 1937,...

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Margaret Walker Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Margaret Walker, poet, novelist, essayist, orator, and critic, is known for her humanistic approach to issues of race and for the totality of her historical perspective. She began publishing poetry in the 1930’s in magazines such as Poetry, Opportunity, and Crisis, but is perhaps best known for her novel Jubilee.

Margaret Abigail Walker was born July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her father, Sigismund Walker, had emigrated from Buff Bay, Jamaica, to study for the ministry and received a degree in 1913 from Gramman Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. A Methodist minister, Sigismund bequeathed to his daughter a love of literature and an acute knowledge of the Bible. Likewise, Walker’s mother, Marian Dozier Walker, a music teacher, played ragtime music for Margaret and read a variety of poetry to her. Both of Walker’s parents encouraged her to pursue the highest academic goals possible.

Margaret Walker completed high school at age fourteen in New Orleans, where the family had moved when she was seven, and she enrolled at New Orleans University (now Dillard University). At the encouragement of Langston Hughes, Walker left the South after her sophomore year and eventually finished her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University in 1935. She also published her first poem that year in Crisis. Upon graduating from Northwestern, Walker began working full time for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Writers’ Project. On her assignment as a junior writer, Walker came into contact with such writers as James Phelan, Katherine Dunbar, Frank Yerby, Fenton Johnson, and Richard Wright.

Her friendship with Wright was perhaps the most important and rewarding aspect of Walker’s time at the WPA. Their relationship was mutually supportive as Walker and Wright worked diligently to publish for the first time in national journals and books. Wright helped Walker improve the structure of her poetry, while Walker helped him revise some of his works. Wright encouraged Walker’s decision to delay work on her Civil War novel, which eventually became Jubilee, and Walker helped Wright research Native Son (1940). Walker’s...

(The entire section is 905 words.)