Margaret Esse Danner was born in Pryorsburg, Kentucky, on January 12, 1915. Her family moved to Chicago, where she attended high school. She studied poetry at Loyola University and Northwestern University, though she received no degrees. In the 1950s, she worked as an editorial assistant, and later assistant editor, for Poetry magazine.
Danner published several poetry collections, including The Down of a Thistle: Selected Poems, Prose Poems, and Songs (Country Beautiful, 1976) and Iron Lace (Kriya Press, 1968). She also collaborated with the poet Dudley Randall to publish Poem Counterpoem (Broadside Press, 1966). Her poetry is known for its frequent inclusion of political metaphor and celebration of African history.
She was the recipient of a grant from the American Society of African Culture, the 1951 Harriet Tubman Award, a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, and the 1956 Native Chicago Literature Prize, among other honors and awards.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Danner served as a poet in residence at Wayne State University, Virginia Union State University, and LeMoyne-Owen College. She died in Chicago on January 1, 1984.