Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs (American, 1917-2010) was born in St. Rose, Louisiana in 1917; by the time she was five years old her family had moved to Chicago. In the early 1930s, while still in high school, Dr. Burroughs joined the Youth Chapter of the NAACP with her friend, the future poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, and marched to protest the lynching of Black people in the South. She earned teacher's certificates from Chicago Teachers College in 1936 and 1939, and in 1948 earned her Masters in Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago after having earned her Bachelors there in 1946. Throughout her career, Dr. Burroughs was fervently engaged in the enrichment and expression of African-American artistic, political, and community life through education, promotion of the arts, and the creation of a historical consciousness.
In 1997 HEMPHILL mounted an exhibition of Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs prints. We were lucky to have the artist attend the preview, and overjoyed, she agreed to say a few words at the gathering. The typical artist's statement was not what Dr. Burroughs had in mind. Instead, she gave a passionate speech about the importance of community engagement, the role of the artist in politics, and the power of art to work for good. Dr. Burroughs spoke about poetry and the reading of one of her poems into the Congressional record. Then, accompanied by a young person, an intern, she asked the young woman to read a poem to the audience. The intern, stunned, hesitated, then told Dr. Burroughs she did not have a poem. Burroughs gently reprimanded; "A young lady should never be without a poem in her purse."