DuSable Museum Founder, Cultural Leader Dead At 93

CHICAGO (CBS) – Margaret Burroughs, an artist, poet, educator and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, died early Sunday morning at her home surrounded by her family.

Mrs. Burroughs legacy reaches across the spectrum and is a distinctive contribution to black culture.

“Every individual wants to leave a legacy; to be remembered for something positive they have done for their community,” Mrs. Burroughs once told Ebony magazine. “Long after I’m dead and gone, the DuSable Museum will still be here.”

Mrs. Burroughs, 93, was born in St. Rose, La., and had a lifelong passion for learning. She moved with her family north to Chicago where she attended Englewood High School. She would go on to attend Chicago Normal College, Chicago Teachers College and the School of the Art Institute.

The DuSable got its start in 1961 during a meeting at Mrs. Burroughs’s home. Originally called the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, it was relocated in 1971 from Burroughs’ home to Washington Park and renamed for Haitian trader Jean Baptist Pointe DuSable, Chicago’s first permanent settler.

Mrs. Burroughs was the author of children’s books and volumes of poetry that spoke to the African-American experience. Mrs. Burroughs taught art for more than 20 years at DuSable High School. She worked in sculpture and painting but it was her skill as a printmaker that she became best known for. Her linoleum block prints featured images relevant to African-American culture.

Congressman Bobby Rush says Burroughs was a champion for African-American people.

“What a remarkable person. I mean, the gifts just keep on giving,”  he told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov Sunday while discussing Burroughs’ legacy.

Several of her paintings adorn his church and home.

Rush says Burroughs’ leadership helped pave the way for Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. But her most lasting legacy may be the 49-year-old DuSable Museum.  The museum’s Board of Trustees Chairperson, Cheryl Blackwell Bryson,  says Chicagoans might not realize it, but it is an icon around the world and helped inspire others to start similar museums around the globe.

Balckwell Bryson says Burroughs probably inspired millions. Chicago artist Debra Hand is among them.

“One thing she always said was service to humanity is s the highest, highest honor that you could achieve on this earth,”  Hand said.  “So I live by her words.”

The tributes kept coming Sunday, with even the president of the United States offering thoughts on Burroughs’ passing.

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Burroughs’ family and loved ones. Her legacy will live on in Chicago and around the world,” President Obama said in a statement.

At Mrs. Burroughs request, there will be no funeral service. A public memorial will be held after the holidays.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

  • Ted Evans

    Dr. Burroughs and her late husband were Black reinassance heroes, who lent their home to some of the most vibrant and relevant writers, musicians, and artists from around the country. She had the equivalent of an entire library and museum in her home, dedicated to the study of the Black experience. When I was a young student and needed to find out something about our Black history, her home was always open to the public and her wisdom was often given and appreciated. When Black travellers couldn’t obtain hotel accomadations, her home became a refuge to people like Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, Countee Cullen and others. Later, after acquiring the Washington Park facility which became the DuSable Museum of African American History, I would often see her at artistic events and fundraisers. I was always pleased to see her skating at the Markham Skating Rink many evenings with some of her closest friends. Everyone knew and loved her. She was such a talented mentor to many of the movers and shakers in this city and abroad. I will miss her greatly.

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