Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (1915 – 2010), also known as Margaret Taylor Goss, Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs or Margaret T G Burroughs; was an African-American artist and writer, with her efforts directed toward the exploration of the Black experience and to children, especially to their appreciation of their cultural identity and to their introduction and growing awareness of art.
Many of here linocuts have become iconic images of the American Civil Rights movement. In many of Burroughs’ pieces, she depicts people with half black and half white faces.
In The Faces of My People Burroughs carved five people with different skin tones staring at the viewer. One of the women is all black, three of the people are half black and half white and one is mostly white. While Burroughs is attempting to blend together the black and white communities, she also shows the barriers that stop the communities from uniting. None of the people in The Faces of My People are looking at each other, and this implies a sense of disconnect among them.On another level, The Faces of My People deals with diversity. An article from the Collector magazine website describes Burroughs’ attempts to unify in the picture. The article says, “Burroughs sees her art as a catalyst for bringing people together. This tableau of diverse individuals illustrates her commitment to mutual respect and understanding”.
My People: there are four different faces – each of which is half white and half black. The head on the far left is tilted to the side and close to the head next to it. It seems as both heads are coming out of the same body – taking the idea of split personalities to the extreme. The women are all very close together, suggesting that they relate to each other. My People focuses on a common conflict that all the women in the picture face.
Birthday Party: here both black and white children are seen celebrating. The black and white children are not isolated from each other; instead they are intermixed and mingling around the table together waiting for birthday cake. An article published by The Art Institute of Chicago described Burroughs’ Birthday Party and said, “Through her career, as both a visual artist and a writer, she has often chosen themes concerning family, community, and history. ‘Art is communication,’ she has said. ‘I wish my art to speak not only for my people – but for all humanity.’ This aim is achieved in Birthday Party, in which both black and white children dance, while mothers cut cake in a quintessential image of neighbors and family enjoying a special day together”.
She also helped to establish many art establishments and opportunities for artists promoting civil rights.
She helped found the South Side Community Arts Center in 1939 to serve as a social center, gallery, and studio to showcase African American artists.
She is credited with the founding of Chicago’s Lake Meadows Art Fair in the early 1950s. At its inception there were very limited venues and galleries for African American Artists to exhibit and sell their artwork, so she launched the Fair, which rapidly grew in popularity and became one of the most anticipated exhibitions for artists, collectors and others throughout the greater Chicago area. After a brief hiatus beginning in the early 1980s, it was resurrected by Helen Y. West in 2005 – and another of Margaret Burroughs’ legacies lives on.
Margaret and her husband Charles co-founded what is now called the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago in 1961. The institution was originally known as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art and made its debut in the living room of their house at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, and Taylor-Burroughs served as its executive director for the first ten years of its existence. She was proud of the institution’s grass-roots beginnings: “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.”Burroughs served as Executive Director until 1984 and was then named Director Emeritus, remaining active in the museum’s operations and fundraising efforts.
See also the many You Tube videos on her legacy to the Civil Rights movement, interviews with her before her death and reading her poetry.