College of Arts and Sciences

Mary Ann Cain

Mary Ann Cain, Professor, English and LinguisticsDistinguished Lecturers

Making It Up and Passing It On: Margaret T.G. Burroughs
Artist, Activist, Educator, and Museum Founder
Mary Ann Cain, Professor, Department of English and Linguistics

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Margaret T.G. BurroughsMargaret T.G. Burroughs (1917–2010) is best known as the founder of the first African American history museum in the world. However, equally, if not more, important is her legacy of wielding art as a tool of social justice. Burroughs discovered, through her early experiences with collective work
and action in Chicago during 1930s and 40s, the power to create and pass on images and words that challenged those who oppressed her. Her legacy, including the imperative to pass on what we know to the next generation, still stands: creativity is essential to making up the selves we need to act purposefully in the world.


Mary Ann Cain is a professor in the Department of English and Linguistics at IPFW where she has taught writing, rhetoric, and women’s studies since 1995. Much of her research and scholarship explores the intersection of rhetoric and poetics in writing and thinking, activities that are often cast as opposing or separate rather than mutually informing. She is also interested in the relationship of private and public space in creating individual and collective identities. Her publications extend into creative work as well, in the form of fiction and creative nonfiction.

Her teaching reflects her concern for creating a space for critical-creative inquiry, including several courses she originated at IPFW: Creativity and Community, Composing the Self, and Writers Reading. She has also taught creative writing since 2005 for Fort Wayne’s Three Rivers Jenbe Ensemble, a community arts and cultural education group for young people.

Her scholarly publications include two books, Revisioning Writers’ Talk: Gender and Culture in Acts of Composing (1995) and Composing Public Space: Teaching Writing in the Face of Private Interests, co-authored with Michelle Comstock and Lil Brannon (2010), along with book chapters and more than two dozen scholarly articles in journals such as College English, College Composition and Communication, and Composition Studies.

Cain’s creative publications include numerous short stories, memoirs, and blurred genre pieces that have appeared in venerable literary journals such as The North American Review, The Denver Quarterly, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas. Thirteenth Moon Press published her novel Down from Moonshine in 2009. In addition to numerous IPFW and IU grants and awards, she was the recipient of an Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant, two residencies at the
Mary Hambidge Center for Arts, and one at Hill House Writers’ Retreat.

She is currently at work on a nonfiction book, A Walk with Margaret, that explores the legacy of Margaret T.G. Burroughs, artist, educator, writer, activist, and founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, and a book of short stories, Why Birds Fly.