For My People: The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker

Margaret Walker has been described by Nikki Giovanni as the “most famous person nobody knows.” Walker established one of the first Black Studies centers in the nation, was mentored by Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois, and her signature poem, “For My People,” set a tone and a level of commitment to which African-American writers have been responding ever since. Narrated by Ruby Dee, this biographical film combines conversations with Walker, readings from her poetry, and commentary from leading scholars to make a powerful argument for the centrality of her work to contemporary American literature.

00:00Copy video clip URL intro with Juneteenth Productions logo 

00:08Copy video clip URL Music over a montage of photos of Margaret Walker with friends and family. The narrator begins, “Margaret Walker Alexander is a national treasure. Magaret is an intellectual, poet, essayist, fiction writer, a person who has an extraordinary sense of history. 

00:38Copy video clip URL Margaret Walker appears on screen, reciting her poem “For My People” interspersed with narrators speaking over a montage of photos.

2:00Copy video clip URL Title card: “For My People: The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker”

2:09Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “Images”, Walker’s voice, “I never think I have written a poem if I don’t see the images and find the meaning and have the rhythm.” Footage of young children playing while a narrator continues reciting Walker’s poem, “For My People”

02:48Copy video clip URL Jerry Ward speaks about Margaret Walker’s style of writing. Walker appears on screen. She explains that she started writing poetry at age eleven and shares some of her inspirations. Interspersed with photo montages of Harlem Renaissance writers with Walker. Joanne Gabbin shares Walker’s experiences meeting some of the great writers of the Harlem Renaissance. 

05:22Copy video clip URL Walker talks on screen, she discusses meeting W.E.B DuBois at Northwestern University and getting her poem into DuBois’s Crisis magazine. 

06:53Copy video clip URL Highlights of Walker’s work with WPA and the South Side Writers Group, formed by Richard Wright, which influenced her writing to become more socially conscious. 

08:47Copy video clip URL Walker discusses writing the poem “For My People”, she says she wrote the poem in fifteen minutes when she was twenty-two years old. 

09:09Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “Meanings” Narrator continues reciting Walker’s poem “For My People”. Maryemma Graham, Margaret Walker biographer, speaks about meaning being a driving force in Walker’s poem. 

09:52Copy video clip URL Discussion of a letter sent to Walker by editor Steven Vincent Benet, in which Benet told Walker that her poetry had something that the poets of the Harlem Renaissance didn’t have, that it was unique. In nineteen forty-two, Walker receives the Yale Younger Poets Award. Walker talks about it on screen. 

12:18Copy video clip URL Walker recites her poem “Delta”. Joanne Gabbin discusses Walker’s poems about the South, saying “her poetry about the south is so poignant and so moving because there’s this love-hate relationship she has with the south”. 

13:22Copy video clip URL Walker recites “Sorrow Home”. Highlights of Walker’s marriage and family, Walker recites “Love Song For Alex”

15:15Copy video clip URL Discussion of Walker’s novel, “Jubilee”, published in nineteen sixty-six as Walker’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Iowa. Joyce Pettis gives a synopsis of “Jubilee”. 

17:35Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “Rhythms” Joanne Gabbin, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maryemma Graham, and Jerry Ward discuss Walter’s rhythm in her writing. Followed by highlights of Walter’s teaching career. 

20:31Copy video clip URL Discussion of Walker’s development of the Institute for the Study of Black Life and Culture at Jackson State in nineteen sixty-eight. 

20:51Copy video clip URL Footage of Walker speaking at Mississippi Commission on Campus Unrest in nineteen seventy. Followed by discussion on Walker’s contributions as an activists for African American rights.

22:27Copy video clip URL “Walker’s passion for portraying a wide range of Black experiences drew scores of young women poets coming of age in the Black arts and Black nationalist movements.” Joyce Pettis says that Walker has been a mentor to other Black women writers like Alice Walker, Nikki Giovani, and Sonya Sanchez. 

23:42Copy video clip URL Highlights of Walker’s published books.

25:50Copy video clip URL Credits




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