Margaret Walker Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Margaret Walker’s description of the landscape of Georgia in Jubilee is stunningly beautiful. What is the purpose of this emphasis on the beauty of nature?

How does Walker represent sexual behavior in Jubilee and “Poppa Chicken”?

How does Walker use biblical reference in each of the works discussed in the analysis above?

Show how Walker’s writing is both optimistic and pessimistic about the moral progress of humankind.

One of the principal narrative tactics in Walker’s writing is the use of inventories—of flowers, smells, foods, emotional states, medicines, and so on. Locate some examples and explain their function where they appear.

In spite of her hope, Walker depicts significant violence in her writing. Identify some examples and explain the purpose of such descriptions where they are found.

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Margaret Walker’s nonfiction publications included a biography of Richard Wright (1908-1960), several volumes of critical essays, and a collection of her talks with the poet and activist Nikki Giovanni. The posthumous work Conversations with Margaret Walker (2002) contains much of the material that would have been in a projected autobiography. Walker’s literary reputation, however, rests primarily on her poetry and on her novel Jubilee (1966).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

When For My People was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1942, Margaret Walker became the first African American woman to be awarded a national prize for a poetry collection. In 1966, Walker received a Houghton Mifflin literary award for Jubilee, which became a best seller and served as a model for later historical fiction by black writers. Walker’s novel was especially influential in drawing attention to the strength and heroism of African American women. In her later years, Walker was honored for her many achievements as a writer, a teacher, and an activist. Among the awards presented to her were a Langston Hughes Award (1983), Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for Lifetime Achievement and Contributions to American Literature (1991), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Language Association (1992), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation (1993). In 1995, the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center for the Study of Twentieth Century African Americans, which Walker had established in 1968 at Jackson State University, held a weeklong celebration in her honor, and in October, 1998, Walker was inducted into the African American Literary Hall of Fame at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Berke, Nancy. Women Poets on the Left: Lola Ridge, Genevieve Taggard, Margaret Walker. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001. Discusses political poetry in the United States and places these three poets in that context. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Carmichael, Jacqueline Miller. Trumpeting a Fiery Sound: History and Folklore in Margaret Walker’s “Jubilee.” Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. Places Jubilee in historical and critical context of American, African American, and women’s literature. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Collier, Eugenia. “Fields Watered with Blood: Myth and Ritual in the Poetry of Margaret Walker.” In Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, edited by Mari Evans. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984. Presents important insights into Walker’s poetry.

Graham, Maryemma, ed. Fields Watered with Blood: Critical Essays on Margaret Walker. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001. A solid collection of critical and interpretive essays. Includes bibliographical references and index.

Gwin, Minrose. Black and White Women of the Old South: The Peculiar Sisterhood in American Literature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985. Offers an important discussion of Walker and her work.

Pettis, Joyce. “Margaret Walker: Black Woman Writer of the South.” In Southern Women Writers: The New Generation, edited by Tonette Bond Inge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990. Offers an important discussion of Walker and her work.

Walker, Margaret. “The Fusion of Ideas: An Interview with Margaret Walker Alexander.” Interview by Maryemma Graham. African American Review 27 (Summer, 1993). Useful and insightful interview.

Walker, Melissa. Down from the Mountaintop: Black Women’s Novels in the Wake of the Civil Rights Movement, 1966-1989. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. Offers an important treatment of Jubilee.