Margaret Walker Part 14 Of 15 Black Authors
Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander January 7, 1915 – November 30, 1998
When I think of a jubilee, I think of a festive celebration. I think of food and laughter and fun times, so when we were given this book in the eleventh grade and told to do a book report on it, I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t. I never actually finished this book (note to self). I remember being overtaken with grief reading this book. I wanted it to be what I had thought it should be. Instead, I was faced with a mixed-race, runaway slave during the Civil War. I would later find out that this story was not all fictional and that many of the accounts were of Walker’s great-grandmother.
Not that there has to be a competition among black women writers, but before there was Gwendolyn Brook’s, there was Margaret Walker. Walker won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 1942 with For My People. For My People was her first work, and to some, it was her most important work. In that work, we find that Walker is holding tight to using the word “jubilee,” so it is of no surprise that this is what she chose to name her novel. Walker worked for Jackson State University for over thirty years in several different capacities leading up to Director.
Walker sued Alex Haley, claiming he had stolen parts of Jubilee for Roots. The case was thrown out. Walker was also on the receiving end of a lawsuit by the widow of Richard Wright, who claimed that Walker’s use of unpublished letters of Wright’s violated copyright laws. This lawsuit was also thrown out.
Margaret Walker died at the age of 83 in Chicago of breast cancer.