(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Prophets for a New Day reprises the heroic sacrifice of the revolutionary 1960’s in the United States, a decade which featured the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy, as well as the Watts riots and the American forces in Vietnam, where a disproportionate number of those who died were African American.

Stanza I appropriates the Old Testament personalities and narrative of the Hebrew captivity and ordeal in a modern discourse that is homiletic and exhortative. It announces the threshold of an apocalyptic time. The gravity of the proclamation is suggested by its association with the tropes of heroic Old Testament personalities—Moses and the burning bush, Isaiah’s lips purified with a hot coal, the portentous wheels of fire that accompanied Ezekiel’s dire prophesies, and Amos, who prophesied the fall of the Hebrew kingdom. Like the biblical audience, the modern African American one lives in poor places and jails, in the worthless lands and the roads between inns. A composite prophetic leader delivers a message to all who are tired and in pain because they are denied creature comforts and safety.

The second stanza connects the biblical and the modern population of believers who have no political power. They kneel by an iconic river and around the world. Prophecy is proclaimed, signaled by “flaming flags of stars,” “a blinding sun,” “the lamp of truth” that...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Barksdale, Richard K. “Margaret Walker: Folk Orature and Historical Prophecy.” In Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960, edited by R. Baxter Miller. Tennessee Studies in Literature 30. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

Berke, Nancy. Women Poets on the Left: Lola Ridge, Genevieve Taggard, Margaret Walker. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Buckner, B. Dilla. “Folkloric Elements in Margaret Walker’s Poetry.” CLA Journal 33 (1990): 367-377.

Carmichael, Jacqueline Miller. Trumpeting a Fiery Sound: History and Folklore in Margaret Walker’s “Jubilee.” Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.

Graham, Maryemma, ed. Conversations with Margaret Walker. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2002.

Graham, Maryemma, ed. Fields Watered with Blood: Critical Essays on Margaret Walker. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

Klotmas, Phyllis. “’Oh Freedom’—Women and History in Margaret Walker’s Jubilee.” Black American Literature Forum 11 (1977): 139-145.

Miller, R. Baxter. “The ’Intricate Design’ of Margaret Walker: Literary and Biblical Re-Creation in Southern History.” In Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960, edited by Miller. Tennessee Studies in Literature 30. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

Ward, Jerry W., Jr. “A Writer for Her People: An Interview with Dr. Margaret Walker Alexander.” Mississippi Quarterly 41, no. 4 (Fall, 1998): 515-527.