Inducted into the Chicago Hall of Fame in 2014, Margaret Walker is one of those writers whom history ought to remember, but will probably relegate to the margins. A trailblazing black poet and writer, Walker was born in Alabama in 1915, a few decades after the introduction of racist Jim Crow segregation.
The daughter of a church minister, Walker studied at Northwestern University, and later went on to lecture and teach in English at the institution now known as Jackson State University. Her debut poetry collection, entitled 'For My People', was awarded first prize in the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1942, thus making her the first black woman to win a nation-wide literary award. Indeed, as the title of the her debut work suggests, her oeuvre concerned the struggles of black people to make a life for themselves in America. Walker went on to write a historical novel called 'Jubilee', centered on life during the Civil War and after it, which is considered a seminal work in African-American literature, specifically African-American female literature.
Her death of breast cancer in 1998, five years Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, brought to an end a rich and long life, one which undoubtedly made it easier for black women writers to realise their full potential.