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About this poet

Margaret Walker was born on July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama. She began writing poetry at age fifteen, when she entered college. She received a BA from Northwestern University in 1935 and an MA from the University of Iowa in 1940. In 1936 she joined the Federal Writers’ Project in Chicago, where she became friends with Richard Wright and joined his South Side Writers Group.

In 1941 Walker became the first African American poet to receive the Yale Younger Poets Prize, for her debut collection For My People (Yale University Press, 1942). She was also the author of the poetry collections This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989), October Journey (Broadside Press, 1973), and Prophets for a New Day (Broadside Press, 1970).

Walker married Firnist Alexander in 1943, and together they had four children. In 1949 they moved to Mississippi, where she joined the faculty at Jackson State College. She returned to the University of Iowa for her doctoral studies and received a PhD in 1965. The following year, she published her dissertation as a novel, Jubilee (Houghton Mifflin, 1966).

In 1968 Walker founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People at Jackson State College. As director of the institute, which was later renamed the Margaret Walker Center, she organized the 1971 National Evaluative Conference on Black Studies and the 1973 Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival.

After Walker retired from teaching in 1979, she published On Being Female, Black, and Free (University of Tennessee Press, 1997), a collection of personal essays, and Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius (Warner Books, 1988), a work of nonfiction informed by her friendship with Wright. She died of cancer on November 30, 1998, in Jackson, Mississippi.


Bibliography

Poetry
This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)
October Journey (Broadside Press, 1973)
Prophets for a New Day (Broadside Press, 1970)
For My People (Yale University Press, 1942)

Prose
On Being Female, Black, and Free (University of Tennessee Press, 1997)
Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius (Warner Books, 1988)
How I Wrote Jubilee (Third World Press, 1972)
Jubilee (Houghton Mifflin, 1966)

Amos, 1963

Amos is a Shepherd of suffering sheep;
A pastor preaching in the depths of Alabama
Preaching social justice to the Southland
Preaching to the poor a new gospel of love
With the words of a god and the dreams of a man
Amos is our loving Shepherd of the sheep
Crying out to the stricken land
“You have sold the righteous for silver
And the poor for a pair of shoes.
My God is a mighty avenger
And He shall come with His rod in His hand.”
Preaching to the persecuted and the disinherited millions
Preaching love and justice to the solid southern land
Amos is a Prophet with a vision of brotherly love
With a vision and a dream of the red hills of Georgia
“When Justice shall roll down like water
And righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Amos is our Shepherd standing in the Shadow of our God
Tending his flocks all over the hills of Albany
And the seething streets of Selma and of bitter Birmingham.

From This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989). Used with the permission of the University of Georgia Press.

From This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989). Used with the permission of the University of Georgia Press.

Margaret Walker

Margaret Walker was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1915. The first African American poet to receive the Yale Younger Poets Prize, she was the author of For My People (Yale University Press, 1942) and This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989), among others.

by this poet

poem

From Montgomery to Memphis he marches
He stands on the threshold of tomorrow
He breaks the bars of iron and they remove the signs
He opens the gates of our prisons.
He speaks to the captive hearts of America
He bares raw their conscience
He is a man of peace for the people
Amos is

poem

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs 
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues 
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an 
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an 
     unseen power;