WHAT SHALL I TELL?

DR. MARGARET T. BURROUGHS

“What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?” is the iconic poem written in 1963 by Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs. Dr. Burroughs founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in 1961 to bring to light her people’s history and culture, thus showing them the gloriousness of their ethnic heritage and eliciting their rightful pride in it.

Dr. Burroughs once stated in an interview that “this poem embodies the origin of the DuSable Museum.” The poem served as a guide and encouragement to mothers in the 1960s raising their children in times of great inequality, white versus black mentality and the inevitable pain living in this environment brought to herself and would bring to her children:

What can I say, therefore, when my child
Comes home in tears…
How shall I lift up his head, get him to square
His shoulders, look his adversary in the eye,
Confident of the knowledge of his worth.
Serene under his sable skin and proud of his own beauty?

The poem and the Museum say “how.”

In honor of Dr. Margaret Burroughs and Black History Month 2020 we are adding a link to “Black History Moments” in Google Search to the Resources section of our website. It seems a fitting, modern-day sequel to the poem – showing the gloriousness Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs led the way to show. She would be proud.