Margaret Burroughs, an artist and teacher who founded the nationally recognized DuSable Museum of African American History in the living room of her home on the South Side of Chicago almost 50 years ago, died Sunday of unspecified causes at home, surrounded by family. Relatives said she was 95; other records indicate she was 93.
Burroughs and her husband, the late Charles Burroughs, co-founded the DuSable Museum in 1961. Originally called the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, the museum was later renamed for Jean Baptist Pointe DuSable, a man of African descent who is recognized as Chicago's first permanent settler.
In a statement, President Obama praised Burroughs' generosity and commitment, saying she was "widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor."
Born Margaret Taylor in St. Rose, La., she moved to Chicago with her family as a child. She attended the Chicago Teachers College and received bachelor's and master's degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Burroughs, who taught for more than 20 years at a Chicago high school, immersed herself in art at a young age and gained notice as a painter and printmaker. In her early 20s, she joined several other artists and art supporters in starting the South Side Community Art Center 70 years ago.
She set up a legendary salon in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago that attracted the likes of sociologist W.E.B. DuBois and writer James Baldwin. Unhappy that there were few places for black artists to showcase their work, she helped launch an art fair in the late 1950s at a nearby shopping center.
A few years later, hoping to bring black history to the forefront in Chicago, she and her husband planted the seeds for what would become a thriving museum with about 100 items in their living room. Today the DuSable Museum, relocated to an expanded building in Washington Park, has a collection of more than 100,000 pieces including African and African American art, manuscripts, personal papers and books.
"A lot of black museums have opened up," Burroughs said in an interview with Black Enterprise magazine, "but we're the only one that grew out of the indigenous black community. We weren't started by anybody downtown; we were started by ordinary folks."
Married twice, Burroughs is survived by a son, Paul, and four grandchildren. Charles Burroughs died in 1994.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times