Margaret Walker

Margaret Walker

1938-1940, 1962-1965
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Margaret Walker Honored in Iowa City with Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

The Old Capitol (Old Cap)
21 North Clinton Street

Poet, novelist Margaret Walker was honored by the University of Iowa in 1988. From the Press-Citizen, May 6, 1988:

[Walker], 72, a poet, novelist and retired Jackson State University English teacher who still lives in Jackson , Miss., was honored Saturday with a distinguished alumni achievement award from the University of Iowa.

[Walker] said she can to Iowa in 1939 “absolutely penniless and determined to learn to write.”

She came back Saturday with 18 family members, including her four children and nine grandchildren, who took up three tables at the awards banquet.

She credits Paul Engle, long-time director fo the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, with getting her to Iowa and helping direct her as a writer.

“He was my friend, with whom I fussed and fought every day over what I was writing,” she said. “He’s just been a friend. He and I never agreed on anything, but he was always on my corner.”

Speer, David. “”UI Honors Poet Alexander” May 6, 1988.” Press-Citizen [Iowa City, Iowa] 06 May 1988: n. pag. Print. [Web: African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection,]



Margaret Walker lecture on Richard Wright, July 30, 1971

Iowa City
123 S Linn St

In this archive in the Virtual Writing University Archive, Margaret Walker gives a lecture on Richard Wright at the University of Iowa in 1971.

She starts off her talk expressing her joy at being back in town:  “I’m delighted to be in Iowa City again, if only for one day. And to spend two nights in that house, where I was able to finish Jubilee. I’m very happy to see so many Iowa friends again, before I begin this long sojourn across the water. But I’m also very happy to be a member of the very distinguished company of scholars, and lecturers who have been here talking to you in the last two weeks about Richard Wright.”

Listen to the archive here

“Margaret Walker Alexander lecture on Richard Wright, July 30, 1971.” Virtual Writing University Archive,


Margaret Walker Visits with Students on the UI campus

Afro-American Studies Center (Afro House)
303 Melrose Ave, Iowa City, Iowa

Margaret Walker returned to the University of Iowa campus in 1977 to give a lecture and speak with the young writers at the Afro-American Studies Center:

62-year-old Walker, in Iowa City Tuesday to talk with students at the University of Iowa’s Afro-American Studies Center, insists America can learn by listening to its black artists.

Poet Says Racism Persists in U.S.,” November 3, 1977 :: African American Women in Iowa Digital Collection. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2019.

Image and Place

Margaret Walker’s “Jubilee” Thesis at the Main Library

University of Iowa Main Library
125 West Washington St.

In the early 1960s, Walker returned to Iowa City, this time to pursue a doctorate. Her acclaimed novel Jubilee, published in 1966 under her married name Margaret Walker Alexander, was set in the Civil War South and drew from manuscript collections in a dozen repositories, including UI Special Collections in the Main Library. Her Iowa mentors at this time included Vance Bourjaily and R. Verlin Cassill, both members of the faculty of the Writers’ Workshop, and Alma Hovey, assistant professor emerita of English, who shared her home with Walker during her doctoral research …

… the original, unpublished forms of two of her most highly acclaimed works are at the University of Iowa Main Library’s Department of Special Collections.

UIowa. “Old Gold: Iowa Alumna Key in Chicago’s African American Literary Movement.” Iowa Now. N.p., 12 Oct. 2016. Web. 14 Oct. 2019.


Margaret Walker’s Plaque on the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk

Margaret Walker’s plaque on the Literary Walk reads “The summer then was like an idyll, a season of peace, when all the agitation of the violent world around them seemed suspended, and they felt secure.”


Walker, Margaret. Jubilee. Houghton Mifflin, 1966.

Margaret Walker, an acclaimed poet and author, was at the forefront of Chicago’s African American literary movement in the mid-20th century. She is also an alumna of the University of Iowa, receiving a Master of Art in 1940 and a doctorate in 1965.


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