Renaissance Woman Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs educates the masses with art, culture and political activism By Cassiette West-Williams

Burroughs South Side Stories_1When planning to visit the DuSable Museum of African- American History (A Smithsonian Affiliate), one should allocate at least three hours to study and admire the stunning exhibit: South Side Stories: The Art & Influence of Margaret T. Burroughs (1917 – 2010). Her work covers two floors in the museum and has been graciously shared by her family.

The current display of artifacts, sculpture, clothing, materials, poetry, posters, painting and photography capture only a “small” piece of this Renaissance woman’s life.

An actual small, two-piece dress from Africa is featured, with a coral, blue, black and beige pattern. Next to the garment is a picture that Dr. Burroughs is seen wearing the fashion statement.

As you travel from room to room, the exhibit just keeps getting better. Dr. Burroughs’ treasure has been opened for the world to observe how she used her many talents to contribute to our world. Born in Louisiana, her family moved north to Chicago, where she was formally educated and married.

Also featured are her glazed ceramic bowl (1962), bronze work of a “Crown Head for Ori” (1970) and “Woman” from 1968.

Dr. Burroughs and her husband founded this museum in their personal home in 1961, before it became an official part of the Chicago Park District, now located at 740 E. 56th Place.

The political nature of her work is also discussed in-depth, along with the Neighborhood Arts Programs as well as Dr. Burroughs’ work and mentorship of young artists at Stateville Correctional Center.

Dr. Burroughs was known for visiting inmates on Christmas Day, a tradition which she continued for 30 years.

Some of Dr. Burroughs’ linocut art work (in black and white ink on paper) featured include Mahalia Gospel Queen, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm (Allah’s Angry Man (signed October 9, 2009), A Thousand Shall Rise and six stunning heads in “Faces ala Picasso.”

Dr. Burroughs’ widely known piece, “Hop Scotch” is featured, along with linocuts titled “My People” from March 1986 and “African Ancestors” from October 19, 2009.

What is also a beautiful piece of this exhibit is how other African American artists are featured and an insight into the relationship Dr. Burroughs had with her colleagues or the young people, whom she mentored, are also on display.

Colleague Elizabeth Catlett’s work (1915-2012) is featured with a print, titled “Black is Beautiful” from 1969.

Dr. Burroughs was one of the co-founder’s of the National Conference of Artists (NCA), where she advocated for women of color in the art world. She worked as an advocate for the underrepresented in America and Mexico. Catlett and Burroughs both spent time studying and working with political artist in Mexico; Burroughs was there between 1952 – 1953.

Other artists and friends who share the stage with Dr. Burroughs include: Charles W. White (1918 – 1979), Bernard Goss (1913 – 1966), and the wonderful sketch books of Sylvester Britton (1926 – 2009).

This exhibit was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.