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 Taylors birth, he boarded a train bound
for Ohio hoping to establish a home in the North where his family
would have opportunities that wouldnt 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 wasnt long before many members of Taylors
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,
Taylors father never stopped loving the South and the family
that remained behind in Mississippi, and throughout Taylors
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
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 masters 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. Taylors
novels to date are based on stories from her own family, stories
she learned at family gatherings throughout her life. In her Authors
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 fathers 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-Edwards 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 Taylors own family, from her great-grandfathers
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.
posted December 2001)
Links & Info
Taylor Teacher Resource File features links to lesson plans
and additional information about the writer.
- Song of the Trees. New York: Dial Books for Young
- 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
- The Well. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers,
- 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
- 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.
Biographical and Critical Works:
- Crowe, Chris. Presenting Mildred D. Taylor. New York: Twayne,
- 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: Scribners,
- Kutenplon, Deborah and Ellen Olmstead. Young Adult Fiction
by African American Writers, 1968-1993. New York: Garland Publishing,
- 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
- Mildred D(elois) Taylor. Childrens Literature
Review. Ed. Gerard J. Senick. Detroit: Gale Research Company,
- Mildred D(elois) Taylor. Contemporary Literary
Criticism. Ed. Sharon R. Gunton. Detroit: Gale Research Company,
- 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 Childrens 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.
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (3-part miniseries),
About the Author:
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