The Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University is a repository of literary treasures. The center, functioning as an archive and museum, is named for Margaret Walker Alexander, the celebrated poet and writer. Not only a scholar, she was a friend of artists like Elizabeth Catlett, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison and a mentor to writers like Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni.
In 1968, Walker founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life and Culture of Black People when she was a JSU English and literature professor. The institute was one of the first in the nation to focus on the African-American experience.
Now named in her honor, the Margaret Walker Center is home to her personal papers and has created a digital repository for the nation’s second-largest collection of a modern African-American, female writer. The Margaret Walker Personal Papers Digital Archives represents some 35,000 objects, including correspondence, creative works, and nearly 13,000 pages of Walker’s hand-written journals that she kept from the 1930s to the 1990s.
“We’re proud of our direct link to Margaret Walker at Jackson State,” noted Dr. Robert Luckett, the center’s director. “Lifting her and her work into the national consciousness gives us a high bar to strive toward each and every day.”
The Margaret Walker Center houses fine art, artifacts, and other significant manuscript records, including those of former U.S. Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, a JSU alumnus. The center’s oral history department features nearly 2,000 interviews, offering researchers and scholars from across the globe a first-hand account of Mississippi’s culturally rich past.
Open to the public, the center sponsors visits from poets, writers and social activists to give students the opportunity to interact with them. Past guests have included U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and Andrew Young, civil rights veteran, former Atlanta Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
With 2015 marking what would have been Margaret Walker’s 100th birthday, the center is planning a year-long series of events to honor her artistic and academic legacy.
Margaret Walker Center Website: