Profile: Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (1915-2010)

Margaret Taylor-Burroughs was an American visual artist, writer, poet, educator, and arts organizer. She co-founded the Ebony Museum of Chicago, now the DuSable Museum of African American History. An active member of the African-American community, she also helped to establish the South Side Community Art Center, whose opening on May 1, 1941 was dedicated by the First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt.  There at the age of 23 Burroughs served as the youngest member of its board of directors. A long-time educator, she spent most of her career at DuSable High School. Taylor-Burroughs was a prolific 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. She is also credited with the founding of Chicago’s Lake Meadows Art Fair in the early 1950s.

Early life and education

Burroughs was born Victoria Margaret Taylor in St. Rose, Louisiana, where her father worked as a farmer and laborer at a railroad warehouse and her mother as a domestic. The family moved to Chicago in 1920 when she was five years old. There she attended Englewood High School along with Gwendolyn Brooks, who in 1985-1986 served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (now United States Poet Laureate). As classmates, the two joined the NAACP Youth Council. She earned teacher’s certificates from Chicago Teachers College in 1937. 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. In 1946, Taylor-Burroughs earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she also earned her Master of Arts degree in art education, in 1948. Taylor-Burroughs married the artist Bernard Goss (1913–1966), in 1939, and they divorced in 1947. In 1949, she married Charles Gordon Burroughs and they remained married for 45 years until his death in 1994.

Professional life

Taylor-Burroughs taught at DuSable High School on Chicago’s South side from 1946 to 1969, and from 1969 to 1979 was a professor of humanities at Kennedy-King College, a community college in Chicago. She also taught African American Art and Culture at Elmhurst College in 1968. She was named Chicago Park District Commissioner by Harold Washington in 1985, a position she held until 2010.

She died on November 21, 2010.

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