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Sun, 11.11.1917

Margaret Burroughs, a Chicago hero

Margaret Burroughs

*Margaret Burroughs was born on this date in 1917. She was a Black artist, historian, teacher and writer.

Margaret Taylor-Burroughs was born in St. Rose, Louisiana, and by the time she was five years old the family had moved to Chicago.  There she attended Englewood High School along with poet Gwendolyn Brooks.  As classmates, the two joined the NAACP Youth Council. She also helped to establish the South Side Community Art Center, whose opening on May 1, 1941 was dedicated by the First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt. There at the age of 23 she served as the youngest member of its board of directors.

She earned teacher's certificates from Chicago Teachers College in 1936 and 1939, and in 1948 earned her Masters in Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago after having earned her Bachelor's there in 1946. During this time, Burroughs married the artist Bernard Goss in 1939, and they divorced in 1947.  In 1949 she married Charles Gordon Burroughs, and they had been married for forty-five years at the time he died in 1994.  Burroughs taught at DuSable High School from 1946 to 1969, and from 1969 to 1979 was a professor of humanities at Kennedy-King College, a community college in Chicago.  She also taught African American Art and Culture at Elmhurst College in 1968.

Dr. Burroughs was a prolific writer, with her efforts directed toward the exploration of the Black experience and to children, especially to their appreciation of their cultural identity and to their introduction and growing awareness of art.  She is also credited with the founding of Chicago's Lake Meadows Art Fair in the early 1950s.  At its inception there were very limited venues and galleries for Black artists to exhibit and sell their artwork, so Dr. Burroughs launched the Fair, which rapidly grew in popularity and became one of the most anticipated exhibitions for artists, collectors and others throughout the greater Chicago area. After a brief hiatus beginning in the early 1980s, Helen Y. West resurrected it in 2005.

Burroughs and her husband Charles co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago in 1961, they were originally known as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art. The institute began in the living room of their house at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's south side. Burroughs served as its executive director for the first ten years of its existence. The museum moved to its current location at 740 E. 56th Place in Washington Park in 1973, and today is the oldest museum of Black culture in the United States.

As a writer, Burroughs wrote for the Associated Negro Press; published works include Jasper, the Drummin’ Boy and the anthology Did You Feed My Cow?  She published her first book of poetry in 1968 titled What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?

As an artist, her work has been seen at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the High Museum in Atlanta, the Los Angeles County Museum and in museums in Germany, Mexico, Poland and the Soviet Union. She has also served as chair of the National Conference of Artists.

Burroughs has received the President’s Humanitarian Award, a Presidential appointment to the National Commission on Black History and Culture and the International year of the Woman Award: Catalysts for Change. She’s received many honors including the Legends and Legacy Award from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Paul Robeson Award in 1989.  Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs died on November 21, 2011.

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