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See also:
* Writer News:
Oxford Book Conference to honor Taylor in statewide celebration
(18 March 2004)
 
* Book Info:
The Land
(September 2001)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
(January 2001)
Mississippi Bridge
(June 2000)
The Friendship
(February 1998)
The Gold Cadillac
(February 1998)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
(February 1997)
Song of the Trees
(August 1996)
 

Home:  >Browse Listings   >Authors   >Taylor, Mildred D.

Mildred D.Taylor

Mildred D. Taylor
Mildred D. Taylor

Mildred D. Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on September 13, 1943, to Wilbert Lee Taylor and Deletha Marie Davis Taylor. Life in the racially segregated South was difficult and sometimes unpleasant for Wilbert Taylor, so a few weeks after Taylor’s birth, he boarded a train bound for Ohio hoping to establish a home in the North where his family would have opportunities that wouldn’t be possible in Mississippi. Within a week he had found a factory job in Toledo, and two months after that, when Taylor was three months old, he brought his family to the North. It wasn’t long before many members of Taylor’s extended family followed her family to Ohio, and for much of her childhood, she was surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Even though he lived in the North, Taylor’s father never stopped loving the South and the family that remained behind in Mississippi, and throughout Taylor’s childhood, he regularly took his wife and children to visit them. It was during those visits to Mississippi that Taylor learned about family history and storytelling, both of which would, years later, become essential to her writing career.

The telling of family stories was a regular feature of Taylor family gatherings. Family storytellers told about the struggles relatives and friends faced in a racist culture, stories that revealed triumph, pride, and tragedy. The stories inspired Taylor, and she still has a vivid recollection of the storytelling sessions:

I remember my grandparents’ house, the house my great-grandfather had built at the turn of the century, and I remember the adults talking about the past. As they talked I began to visualize all the family who had once known the land, and I felt as if I knew them, too....

Many of the stories told were humorous, some were tragic, but all told of the dignity and survival of a people living in a society that allowed them few rights as citizens and treated them as inferiors. Much history was in those stories, and I never tired of hearing them. There were stories about slavery and the days following slavery. There were stories about family and friends. (“Acceptance of the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for The Friendship.” The Horn Book Magazine, March 1989, 179-80)

From these stories, Taylor learned about her great-grandfather, the son of a white plantation owner in Alabama and a slave woman. In the late 1800s, this young man ran away from Alabama to buy land and settle in Mississippi; the land he purchased more than 100 years ago is still owned by the Taylor family.

In the 1950s, Taylor attended newly integrated schools in Toledo; she graduated from Scott High School in 1961 and from the University of Toledo in 1965. After graduation from college, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Ethiopia. When she returned to the United States, she enrolled in the University of Colorado, eventually earning a master’s degree. After she graduated from the University of Colorado, Taylor settled in Los Angeles to pursue her writing career.

Her first book, Song of the Trees, won the Council on Interracial Books for Children Award in 1974 and was published by Dial Books in 1975. Her second novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, won the 1977 Newbery Award from the American Library Association. The Land is the ninth book in her award-winning saga about the Logan family.

All of Mildred D. Taylor’s novels to date are based on stories from her own family, stories she learned at family gatherings throughout her life. In her “Author’s Note” in The Land, she explains that her great-grandfather was the basis for the character Paul-Edward:

In writing The Land, I have followed closely the stories told by my father and others about my great-grandparents. From as far back as I can remember, I had heard stories about my great-grandfather, who bought the family land in Mississippi. Born the children of an African-Indian woman and a white plantation owner during slavery, my great-grandfather and his sister were brought up by both their parents. Their father had three sons by a white wife, and he acknowledged all of his children. He taught his children to read and write and he ordered his white sons to share their school learning with them. All the children sat at their father’s table for meals, and my great-grandfather often went with his father and his brothers on their trips around the community. (369)

Similarly, in her other novels, nearly all the events are based on stories Taylor has heard from her father and other family members; nearly all the characters are based on family members or acquaintances she has known or learned about. The Logan family saga, then, is essentially family history for Taylor. The saga begins with Paul-Edward Logan in The Land leaving his family in Georgia in the 1870s and eventually settling in Mississippi where he buys the land that will become the homestead for all the future Logans. The next part of the saga, The Well, is told by David Logan, one of Paul-Edward’s sons. The third book of the saga, Mississippi Bridge, is the only book in the Logan stories not narrated by a member of the Logan family. A white boy, Jeremy Simms, reports a tragedy that he and the Logan children witness in 1931. The fourth book, Song of the Trees, is told from the point of view of a third-generation Logan, Cassie, who narrates the rest of the Logan stories: The Friendship; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Let the Circle Be Unbroken; The Road to Memphis; and Logan.

The Logan stories closely follow the history of Taylor’s own family, from her great-grandfather’s purchase of land in Mississippi in the 1880s to their move to Ohio in the 1940s. Her last novel planned for the saga, Logan, will take the Logan family from their home in Mississippi to their new home in Ohio. Taylor is currently working on this novel, the final episode in the Logan family saga.

Chris Crowe

(Article first posted December 2001)

Related Links & Info

The Mildred Taylor Teacher Resource File features links to lesson plans and additional information about the writer.

Publications

Fiction (Novels):

  • Song of the Trees. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1975.
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1976.
  • Let the Circle Be Unbroken. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1981.
  • The Gold Cadillac. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1987.
  • The Friendship. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1987.
  • Mississippi Bridge. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1990.
  • The Road to Memphis. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1990.
  • The Well. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.
  • The Land. New York: Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2001.
  • Logan. (tentatively scheduled for 2004).

Nonfiction (Speeches and Autobiographical Writing):

  • “Acceptance of the Boston-Globe/Horn Book Award for The Friendship.The Horn Book Magazine 65.2 (March/April 1989): 179-182.
  • “ALAN Award Acceptance Speech.” ALAN Breakfast, Detroit Michigan, November 22, 1997.
  • “Growing Up with Stories.” Booklist (December 1, 1990): 740-741.
  • “Mildred D. Taylor.” Something About the Author Autobiography Series. Ed. Adele Sarkissian. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988. 267-286.
  • “Newbery Medal Acceptance.” The Horn Book Magazine 53.4 (August 1977): 401- 409.

Bibliography

Biographical and Critical Works:

  • Crowe, Chris. Presenting Mildred D. Taylor. New York: Twayne, 1999.
  • Fogelman, Phyllis J. “Mildred D. Taylor." The Horn Book Magazine 53.4 (August 1977): 410-414.
  • Harper, Mary Turner. “Merger and Metamorphosis in the Fiction of Mildred D. Taylor.” Children's Literature Association Quarterly 13.1 (1988): 75-80.
  • Kirk, Suzanne Porter. “Mildred Delois Taylor.” Writers for Young Adults, volume 3. Ed. Ted Hipple. New York: Scribner’s, 1997: 273-282.
  • Kutenplon, Deborah and Ellen Olmstead. Young Adult Fiction by African American Writers, 1968-1993. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.
  • “Meet the Newbery Author: Mildred Taylor.” videocassette. Prod. By Miller-Brody. Dist. By American School Publs. 1991 #004614.
  • “Mildred D. Taylor: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” videocassette. Films for the Humanities and Sciences. 1988, 1991 release. #2800.
  • “Mildred D(elois) Taylor.” Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Gerard J. Senick. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1985. 223-229.
  • “Mildred D(elois) Taylor.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982. 418-421.
  • Moss, Anita. “Mildred D. Taylor.” Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Daphne M. Kutzer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996: 401-413.
  • Rees, David. “The Color of Skin: Mildred Taylor.” The Marble in the Water. Boston: Horn Book, 1980. 104-113.
  • Smith, Karen Patricia. “A Chronicle of Family Honor: Balancing Rage and Triumph in the Novels of Mildred D. Taylor.” African-American Voices in Young Adult Literature: Tradition, Transition, Transformation. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1994: 247-276.
  • Taxel, Joel. “The Black Experience in Children’s Fiction: Controversies Surrounding Award Winning Books.” Curriculum Inquiry 16.3 (1986): 245-281.
  • “Taylor, Mildred D.” Something About the Author, Volume 70. Eds. Donna Olendorf and Diane Telgen. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1993. 222-226.

Media Adaptations

Motion Pictures:

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (3-part miniseries), ABC-TV, 1978.

Internet Resources

About the Author:

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