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The serpent is loosed and the hour is come 

The last shall be first and first shall be none

     The serpent is loosed and the hour is come

The Ballad of the Free


 Books by Margaret Walker

On Being Female, Black and Free  / For My People: A Tribute  /  How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature  / 

This Is My Country: New and Collected Poems  / Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius 

Poetic Equation: Conversations with Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker

How I Wrote Jubilee  /  Prophets for a New Day  / Jubilee / For My People

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Margaret Walker Chronology

(7 July 1915 – 30 November 1998)


1915 Born in Birmingham, Alabama, the first of four children to Reverend Sigismund  Constantine
Walker, a Methodist minister originally from Jamaica, and Marian  Dozier, a musician and
teacher; Grandmother Elvira Ware Dozier moves to   Birmingham to live with family and care 
for her first grandchild.
1932 Publishes first essay, “What Is to become of Us” in Our Youth, a New Orleans  magazine;
meets James Weldon Johnson, Marian Anderson, and Langston Hughes; enrolls in 
Northwestern University (NU) as junior.
1935 Drafts first 300 pages of Jubilee for creative writing class; graduates from NU with B.A. in
English in June.
1936 Begins work with the Federal Writers’ Project in Chicago with Frank Yerby, Gwendolyn 
Brooks, and Richard Wright.
1937 Publishes “For My People” in Poetry in October; Southside Writers group disbands.
1940 Graduates from Iowa with M.A. in creative writing; publishes short story in Anvil and 
CreativeWriting; returns to New Orleans for eighteen months; suffers depression and 
1941 “For My People” published in Negro Caravan.
1942 Wins Yale Younger Poet Award for poetry collection For My People, subsequently 

published by Yale University Press.


1943 Marries Firnist James Alexander; moves to High Point, N.C.; first of four children born.
1949  Becomes English professor at Jackson State University.
1965 Receives Ph.D. in English from Iowa.
1966  Jubilee is published 25 September; wins Houghton Mifflin literary award, Mable Carney
Student National Education Association plaque for scholar-teacher of the year, and Alpha
Kappa Alpha Sorority Citation for Advancement of Knowledge;  is honored at New York
production A Hand Is on the Gate; meets Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Cicely Tyson, Moses 
Gunn, Roscoe Brown, James Earl Jones, and  Gloria Foster (who performs Walker’s 
poetry); attends party at home of Langston Hughes.
1968  Establishes Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black people at Jackson
State University, now the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center. Retires
from teaching at Jackson State University.
1970 Prophets for a New Day published by Third World Press, marking a shift from mainstream
publishers; publishes “The Humanistic Tradition of Afro-American Literature”; massacre 
at Jackson State inspires poem; serves as witness before President’s Commission on Campus 
1972  Receives National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellowship for independent study; 
conducts seminar at Atlanta’s Institute of the Black World; How I Wrote Jubilee later 
published as monograph by Third World Press; speaks at centennial of Paul Lawrence 
Dunbar’s birth in Dayton and conceives idea for festival of black women writers to honor
 Phyllis Wheatley; delivers speech “Agenda for Action: Black Arts and Letters” at Black 
Academy Conference to Assess the State of Arts and Letters in the United States, sponsored
 by Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago; writes “humanities with a Black Focus: A Black  
Paradigm” distributed by the Institute for Services to education in Curriculum Changes in 
Black Colleges III, published by U.S. Department of Education; delivers speech 

commemorating JSU massacre.  


1973 October journey published by broadside press; hosts Phyllis Wheatley (bicentennial) Poetry
Festival at JSU in October; gathering of black women helps   inaugurate the black women’s
literary renaissance; appears before Federal Communications Commission regarding racial 
discrimination in media; participates in Library of Congress conference on Teaching Creative 

Writing; presents “The Writer and Her Craft.”  


1974 Poetic Equation: Conversations with Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker published
by Howard University Press; hospitalized for diabetes; outlines sequel  to Jubilee in hospital;
goes on speaking tour in Northeast; receives honorary degrees from Denison University, 

Northwestern University, Rust College (Mississippi).


1977 Files suit against Alex Haley for plagiarism; judge rules in favor of Haley; Conference on 

Africa and African Affairs sponsored by Black Studies Institute.  


1980 Publishes essay “On Being Female, Black, and Free”; “Mississippi and the Nation” speech 
  given at Governor’s Inaugural Symposium; “Margaret Walker Alexander Day” proclaimed 
by Mississippi Governor William Winter, 12 July; husband Alex dies in November; Siggy 
(son) and family move in with Walker; conducts lengthy interview with Claudia Tate for book

Black Women Writers.  


1982 Receives W.E.B. DuBois award from Association of Social and Behavioral  Scientists; 
delivers lecture “Education and the Seminal Mind”; completes new book of poetry; reads

excerpts to overflow crowd at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania).


1988 Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius published after long battle with Wright’s widow; 
celebration held at Old Capital Museum, Jackson; serves as delegate from Fourth District
 to National Democratic Convention in Atlanta; branch of Hinds County library named in her 
1989 This Is My Country: New and Collected Poems published; Institute at Jackson  State
becomes Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center for the   Study of the 
Twentieth-Century African American, introduced into legislation as HR 3252; receives 
three-year fellowship from Lyndhurst Foundation (1989- 1992); goes on East Coast and 
West Coast book promotion/lecture tour; attends Federal Writers Project Reunion in
Chicago; opening of “I Dream a World Exhibition (Brian Lanker) featuring Walker and other

women at Corcoran Gallery; appears on CBS “Nightwatch” with Charlie Rose.  


1990 Receives Living legend Award for Literature from National Black Arts Festival,   Atlanta; 
How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature published by Feminist 
Press; U.S. Court of Appeals rules in favor of Walker’s use of Wright’s letters in biography
and against the Richard Wright estate; unveils historic marker at Richard Wright’s home site 

for Natchez Literary Festival.  


1992  Celebrates seventy-fifth birthday in gala event at home; interviewed by Jack Switzer for
national airing of “Open Air” (Mississippi Educational TV); fiftieth anniversary edition of For
My People issued by Limited Editions and celebrated at Limited Editions Club, New York, 
18 September; receives [Kirk Fordice’s] Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts,
lifetime Achievement Award from the College Language Association, Golden Soror Award
from AKA Sorority, and together with Ralph Ellison, a tribute from Modern Language
Association; participates in five-day conference on “Black Women Writers and Magic
  Realism” sponsored by MWA National Research Center; Roland Freeman publishes For My People: A Tribute,
a book of photographs in honor of Walker;   is hospitalized for minor 



1993 Receives National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement; accepts honorary degree from
Spelman College (Atlanta); delivers keynote address “Discovering Our Connections: Race, 
Gender, and the Law” at Washington College of Law, published in American University

 Journal of Gender and Law.


1995 Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center for the Study of Twentieth-Century
 African Americans hosts Margaret Walker Alexander Week 27   November-2 December; 
listed by Ebony magazine as one of “Fifty Most Important Women in the Past Fifty Years”;
publishes “Whose ‘Boy’ Is This?” on Clarence Thomas in African American Women Speak

Out (Geneva Smitherman, ed.); completed first draft of autobiography.  


1997 On Being Female, Black and Free published by University of Tennessee; reads poetry at
Atlanta Arts Festival in July; Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center moves into 

remodeled Ayers Hall at JSU.  


1998 Honored at Zora Neale Hurston International Festival, Eatonville, Florida, in January; reads
poetry and is honored at George Moses Horton Society at UNC in April; is diagnosed with
 cancer in June and undergoes radiation treatment, decides against surgery; receives major 
Arts Achievement award in Jackson, Mississippi,   in July; inducted into eh African American 
Literary Hall of Fame at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference in October; dies in
Chicago at home of oldest daughter, 30 November; funeral held in Jackson on 4 December.
  Maryemma Graham. Conversations with Margaret Walker (2002)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times. What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam?

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

*   *   *   *   *

Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

Predator Nation

Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America

By Charles H. Ferguson

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York. This radical shift did not happen by accident.  Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite.  It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers.  It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008. Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite.

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)   







update 31 May 2012




Home  Mau Mau Aesthetics

Related files:   Conversations  Contents  Conversations Review    Remembering to Not Forget  (Scott)  Margaret Walker Chronology  The Ballad of the Free