UI archivist notes centennial of poet Margaret Walker’s birth
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

(Editor’s note: The Old Gold series provides a look at University of Iowa history and tradition through images housed in University Archives, Department of Special Collections.)

Book spines
Book spines of Margaret Walker Alexander dissertation, Jubilee.

In the early 1960s, Walker returned to Iowa City, this time to pursue a doctorate. Her acclaimed novel Jubilee, published in 1966 under her married name Margaret Walker Alexander, was set in the Civil War South and drew from manuscript collections in a dozen repositories, including UI Special Collections in the Main Library. Her Iowa mentors at this time included Vance Bourjaily and R. Verlin Cassill, both members of the faculty of the Writers’ Workshop, and Alma Hovey, assistant professor emerita of English, who shared her home with Walker during her doctoral research.

Today, the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where she taught from 1949 to 1979, is a testament to her dedication to the study of African Americans—their history, their culture, their heritage. Her personal papers are also housed there; meanwhile, the original, unpublished forms of two of her most highly acclaimed works are at the University of Iowa Main Library’s Department of Special Collections. Old Gold is in awe of these works and of the remarkable woman who created them.

Read more Old Gold columns in Iowa Now.