Margaret Taylor Burroughs, poet, visual artist, educator and arts organizer was born on November 1, 1915. She attended school in Chicago, including Chicago teachers College and received a Bachelor’s Degree (1944) and a Master’s (1948) of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Burroughs has a national reputation as a visual artist and as an arts organizer. Her long exhibition record as a painter and printmaker began in 1949 and has included exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. As an organizer she has been associated with the founding of a number of arts organizations. In 1961, in her home at 3806 South Michigan Avenue, it was her founding of what would become the DuSable Museum of African American history that placed her among the outstanding institution builders of her generation. She served as a Director of the Museum until her appointment as a Commissioner of the Chicago Park District in 1985.
“Every individual wants to leave a legacy; to be remembered for something positive they have done for the community,” said Margaret Burroughs. “Long after I’m dead and gone the DuSable Museum will still be here. “ A lot of Black museums have opened up, but we’re the only one that grew out of the indigenous Black community. We weren’t started by anybody downtown; we were started by ordinary folks.”
Dr. Burroughs firmly believed that this Museum would enrich lives, especially those of young Black people. “A museum shows children they can be somebody,” Burroughs stated. By emphasizing the cultural and racial roots of Black people, Burroughs hoped to teach young people that not only could they be somebody but that they came from a proud and strong Black heritage.
Highlights of Dr. Burroughs career include: Director and Founder, DuSable Museum of African American history, 1961-1984; Art Teacher, DuSable High School, 1946-1969; Professor of African American Art and Culture, Elmhurst College, 1968; and Professor of Humanities, Kennedy King College, 1969-1979.
Dr. Burroughs has also made a distinctive contribution as a poet and as an editor of poets. The majority of her poems are published in the volume What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? (1968) and Africa, My Africa (1970).
Burroughs poems exult in African and African American culture, taking imagery primarily from the urban milieu of Chicago in which she spent her life. Her connection to Africa has been solidified by annual trips to the continent beginning in the late 1960s and continuing to earlier this year.
The DuSable Museum’s President and CEO, Dr. Carol Adams stated, “The DuSable Museum of African American History celebrates the life and achievements of its principle founding member, Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs. A transforming spirit who changed the lives of so many, not only by her actions, but by the testimony that was her life. Her legacy will live on through her art, poetry and institutions she helped to create, she will be truly missed.”
Attorney Cheryl Blackwell Bryson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the DuSable Museum stated, “Dr. Burroughs was a true renaissance woman, a visionary and a role model for all. She was a prime example of someone who lived ‘The Golden Rule,’ that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs spent her life preserving Black culture for all people, but particularly for children through her art and her devotion to the DuSable Museum. Her friend Audrey Edwards once told Black Enterprise Magazine, “Dr. Margaret Burroughs knows that children need heroes, role models and elders who set examples and give definition to history.”
The DuSable has created a special place online where everyone can share memories of Dr. Burroughs. You are welcome to add yours.
Per Dr. Burroughs wishes, there will not be any funeral services. A public Memorial Service will be announced at a later date.