Margaret Burroughs reading her poem “My Philosophy” 2009
Early life and education
Burroughs was born Victoria Margaret Taylor in St. Rose, Louisiana, and by the time she was five years old the family had moved to Chicago. 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’s of Art in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she also earned her Master’s of Art 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 had been married for forty-five years at the time he died in 1994.
Taylor-Burroughs taught at DuSable High School 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.
The DuSable Museum
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.
The museum moved to its current location at 740 E. 56th Place in Washington Park in 1973, and today is the oldest museum of black culture in the United States. Both the current museum building, and the Burroughs’ S. Michigan Avenue home are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.