Eugenia Collier

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Marigolds Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Eugenia Collier's Marigolds. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Eugenia Collier

Eugenia Collier obtained her B.A. from Howard University in 1948, then her M.A. from Columbia University two years later, and finally her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 1976. After obtaining her master’s degree, she worked for five years as a caseworker for the Baltimore Department of Public Welfare. Then she found the calling to which she would devote most her life: education. She joined the faculty at Morgan State University in 1955 as an English instructor, and she lectured there and at other universities, including the University of Maryland and Howard University, until she retired in 1996. In 1969 Collier published “Marigolds,” which won the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize for Fiction and continues to be widely read and anthologized. She’s also published numerous scholarly and critical articles, as well as personal essays.
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Historical Context of Marigolds

Eugenia Collier’s work takes place during the Great Depression and explores its effects on Black children. Racially motivated violence surged during the Depression, and many Black Americans experienced higher unemployment rates and fewer job opportunities than White Americans. Furthermore, many government-assistance programs, like unemployment benefits, had not yet been created, leaving people on their own during the difficult time.

Other Books Related to Marigolds

Much of Eugenia Collier’s academic writing focused on Black American literature. Her dissertation analyzed Black American literary criticism, and in 1992, she coedited an anthology titled Afro-American Writing. Given her academic focus, it’s no surprise that her fiction too is motivated by her love of Black literature and culture. Her predecessors and contemporaries include Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelou, two Black female authors whose writing focused on similar themes as Collier’s. Hurston’s best-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was noteworthy for its avant-garde focus on Black womanhood. Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published the same year as “Marigolds” and similarly examines coming-of-age amid racial prejudice.  
Key Facts about Marigolds
  • Full Title: Marigolds
  • When Written: 1969
  • Where Written: Baltimore, Maryland
  • When Published: 1969
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Short story, coming of age
  • Setting: Rural town in Maryland
  • Climax: Destroying the marigolds
  • Antagonist: Miss Lottie, poverty
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Marigolds

First Effort. “Marigolds,” which won the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize for Fiction and remains Collier’s most popular story, was also her first published story.