Margo Jefferson

Margo Lillian Jefferson (born October 17, 1947) is an American writer and academic. She is a former theatre critic at The New York Times[1] and a professor at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School.[2]

Margo Jefferson
Jefferson at the 2015 Texas Book Festival.
BornMargo Lillian Jefferson
(1947-10-17) October 17, 1947
United States
OccupationTheatre critic, writer, journalist, professor
GenreMemoir, theatre criticism, non-fiction, journalism


Jefferson received her Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University, where she graduated cum laude, and her M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She became an associate editor at Newsweek in 1973 and stayed at the magazine until 1978. She then served as an assistant professor at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at New York University from 1979 to 1983 and from 1989 to 1991. Since then she has taught at the Columbia University School of the Arts, where she is now Professor of Professional Practice in Writing. She joined The New York Times in 1993, initially as a book reviewer,[3] then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.[4] In addition to the Times, she has written for Vogue, New York Magazine, The Nation, and Guernica.

Jefferson appeared in Ken Burns's 2001 documentary series Jazz,[5] as jazz is a subject that interests her.[6] Her 2006 book, On Michael Jackson,[7] was described by Publishers Weekly as a "slim, smart volume of cultural analysis."[8] According to Lucy Scholes in The Independent: "The excellent On Michael Jackson is not a straightforward biography, nor is it an attempt to claim either his innocence or his guilt when it comes to the child abuse scandals that, although he was acquitted, haunt his afterlife. A 'deciphering' is probably the most accurate description of the book, the shrewd playfulness of Jefferson’s prose the perfect vehicle for analysis that’s as smart as it is readable."[9]

Jefferson's autobiographical book, Negroland, was published to acclaim in 2015. It was described by Dwight Garner in The New York Times as a "powerful and complicated memoir",[10] and by Margaret Busby in The Sunday Times as "utterly compelling",[11] while Anita Sethi wrote in The Observer: "Jefferson fascinatingly explores how her personal experience intersected with politics, from the civil rights movement to feminism, as well as history before her birth."[12]




  • On Michael Jackson. New York: Pantheon. 2006. ISBN 978-0-375-42326-0.
  • Negroland: A Memoir. New York: Pantheon. 2015. ISBN 978-0307378453.[14]

Essays and reporting


  1. Andrew Gans, Andrew (August 24, 2004). "Variety's Isherwood Named New New York Times Critic" Archived October 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Playbill.
  2. New School for Social Research Archived September 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. Michael Jackson: An American Work in Progress, Presented by Margo Jefferson.OSU. Archived May 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. The New York Times bio.
  5. "Ken Burns’s Jazz", Jazz Center.
  6. Ken Monaco, PBS
  7. Silman, Anna. "She Wrote the Book on Michael Jackson. Now She Wishes It Said More". The Cut. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  8. "On Michael Jackson". Publishers Weekly. November 28, 2005.
  9. Lucy Scholes (May 10, 2018), "On Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson, review: As smart as it is readable", The Independent.
  10. Dwight Garner (September 10, 2015), "Review: ‘Negroland,’ by Margo Jefferson, on Growing Up Black and Privileged", The New York Times.
  11. Margaret Busby (June 19, 2016), "Books: Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson", The Sunday Times.
  12. Anita Sethi (January 22, 2017), "Negroland by Margo Jefferson review – a brilliant memoir about race in America", The Observer.
  13. Alexandra Alter (March 17, 2016). "'The Sellout' Wins National Book Critics Circle's Fiction Award". New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  14. Tracy K. Smith, "Margo Jefferson’s ‘Negroland: A Memoir’" (review), The New York Times, September 15, 2015.
External audio
Margo Jefferson, The Poet and the Poem 2017–18 Series
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