The H3O/Art of Life Blog
Dr. Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs: "TCB"*
By Eleanor Chatman
Presented by Omni-University
I first met Dr. Burroughs in the basement of her home in Chicago, in 1968. There was a special gathering to which I had been given an invitation. The purpose of the meeting was to raise funds for the Dusable Museum of African American History which had opened in 1961 but, was still in need of more support.
I was impressed with Dr. Burroughs from the moment we were introduced. She had a way about her that made you feel comfortable- as if she had known you for years. I noticed this as she greeted everyone in the same pleasant manner. She easily convinced me, along with others in the group, to pull out our checkbooks and write a check to the DuSable Museum. My check was for the purchase of a chair. Dr. Burroughs was also an active Founding member of the South Side Community Art Center, a Chicago artistic and cultural hub, which was created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1941. Being the astute business woman that she was, she knew better than to let any of us walk away - perhaps never to be seen again - after only making a monetary contribution. She remained in contact with all of us for years so as to support the Arts in the community. Art Fairs were held on the city grounds; funding- raising events, with special guests, on the Museum grounds and much more. In 1976, I decided to leave the Chicago Public School system to open a travel agency and specialize in tours of the Black diaspora. When she learned of my agency and the type of tours I was promoting, she came to my office and told me she wanted to be involved with the promotion of these tours. This led to a friendship that lasted for over 40 years. During these years, we escorted many tours together to: Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Egypt, China, France, Italy and Vietnam to name a few destinations. Some years we traveled and escorted more than five(5) tours a year. Many times, while I was still working, she would escort these tours by herself. We promoted many of our tours on WVON and a few other Chicagoland radio stations to encourage our community to learn more about their heritage. However, it was not all about travel. We visited schools to share, with the students, the importance of The DuSable Museum in learning about their heritage and culture. We did the same at churches and senior centers.
I eventually became a Board member of the Dusable Museum. This was an interesting experience and I learned a lot about the challenges of operating a museum - especially an African American museum. I remained on the Board for about six (6) years. Among the highlights of our years together were visiting antique stores- which she viewed as museums- and attending plays and musicals. The outing I think she enjoyed most was to the South African musical "Sophia" that appeared in Chicago (South Africa was one of her favorite countries). The most tender moments I remember are the times, over the years, that she and her husband, Charlie, her daughter, Gayle and Gayle's sons came to my house for all the major holidays to share meals and pleasant memories with my family and I. Dr. Burroughs also enjoyed my annual garage sale where she sat at a table in my backyard and sold her signed prints. The money she collected went to a Cultural Fund for the purchase of art supplies for inmates in Statesville Correctional Center. I don’t know how many of you are aware that she and her friend, Queen Mother Rev. Helen Sinclair, traveled to Statesville each week to aid the incarcerated men in any form they could, particularly with writing and painting. Dr. Burroughs also collected books to take to the incarcerated men in Statesville as well as to the women they served in Dwight Correctional Center.
"Dr. B" was a savvy lady. One example really stands out in my mind. When the Granddaughter of the former President Franklin Delano and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to the South Side Community Art Center to give her an award, she asked me to accept it in her stead. While she was honored that the Roosevelts' granddaughter would be giving her a personal award, Dr. Burroughs felt that it was her duty to attend an event that was contributing money to the Institution. On another note: "Dr. B" decided, while in her 70’s, to learn Spanish and to roller skate. (I think she enjoyed roller skating the most). She met many younger people at the roller rink. She said being around younger people gave her positive energy. Of course, she was the center of attention. Dr. Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs was - and will.always remain - a Black Cultural Institution but, to me she was simply "Dr. B", a dedicated institution- builder who was always *"Taking Care of Business"
 In 1985, Dr. Burroughs was given an award for being "One of America's 10 Top Black Business and Professional Women" by Dollars & Sense Magazine.
Recommended Reading: "Life With Margaret", by Dr. Margaret T. G. Burroughs
"Me and Dr. B" by Eleanor Chatman (projected publication date March 2021)
What Would You Do?
Black pride and culture are being celebrated across the globe on levels never before seen. Non-Black museums are scurrying to resurrect and re-examine Black history and our art is being catapulted to the forefront for a more nuanced interpretation of its meaning and context. Good for us, but... The DuSable Museum and the South Side Community Art Center have been doing this work all along.
From the start, the DuSable Museum and the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC) have been right there fighting for an acknowledgement of our relevance. They were there to continuously correct the untruths in our history and to confirm and assert our beauty despite a world that would ridicule us. They were there to tell our stories and to keep our self-esteem afloat in a society that sought daily to tell us we were nothing. They were there to honor our humanity and art when non-Black institutions considered our point of view to be mediocre and unworthy.
The DuSable Museum and the SSCAC -- both principally founded by the great Dr. Margaret Burroughs -- have been there, without a doubt, for Black people. The question is: Will we be there for them?
If you knew that a membership commitment would assure the continued existence of these vital institutions which were founded specifically to tell your stories and to build dignity in you and your children -long before your culture was thought of as worthy of attention by any other American institution, what would you do?
If you knew that, in this critical day of social change, non-Black institutions are scrambling to try to tell your story for you through their outside-looking-in perspective, would you then seek to protect two of the few authentic institutional voices that can speak in first-person about who we are and how we came to be us?
Would you choose to help insure that Black history is reflected and narrated by two of our most trusted institutions or would you prefer to leave it to others to examine and declare who we are and what is our value as a cultural group?
In the quiet of our consciences, confronted by upheaval and cries for change, a simple question is being asked of us all: What will we do to preserve these important institutions? Unless we follow-up with actions that can result in change, shouting Black pride slogans is only symbolic. The SSCAC and the DuSable Museum need us to step forward.
Hopefully you are willing to protect these institutions by playing a part on that change, not just for us, but for every generation that follows! Please let your voice be heard by going to …
dusablemuseum.org/membership/ and sscartcenter.org/membership.html
Memberships start at $25 a year for both students and senior citizens at the DuSable and the SSCAC. Other membership levels for adults and families, etc. are available. Thank you for preserving our story, our beauty, and our future by supporting these important institutions.
Artist Debra Hand