Born: September 13, 1943
Ohio connection: Former Resident
Mildred Delois Taylor was born in 1943 in Jackson, Mississippi, to Wilbert Lee and Deletha M. Taylor. Although born in the South, her family moved to the North, settled in Toledo, Ohio, three weeks after she was born. The Taylors’ migration to the North was because her father did not want to raise his daughters in the segregated, racist land of the South. During visits to the South, the family would gather together and share family stories, which captivated Taylor tremendously. These family stories were centered on the values her family instilled in her, such as courage, dignity, and self-respect. Over time, Taylor realized the differences that existed between these inspiring stories and those she read about African Americans in the history books. “By the time I entered high school, I had a driving compulsion to paint a truer picture of Black people,” she said. Taylor graduated from the University of Toledo in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in education. From there she accepted a Peace Corps assignment in Ethiopia, where she taught English and history to Ethiopian students. Upon returning to the United States, she enrolled at the University of Colorado where she achieved a master’s degree through the School of Journalism. Throughout her time abroad and in school, Taylor discovered that she kept “turning again and again to the stories I heard in my childhood. I was deeply drawn to the roots of that inner world which I knew so well, yet I could never capture in writing the warmth of it, the deep emotions and strength of those people who were so vivid in my mind.” Though she had written stories for several years, her first success was winning a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children in the African-American category. Her story, Song of the Trees, was an old manuscript centered on the Logan family, which inspired her to continue writing Logan family stories for years to come.
First prize in African-American category, Council on Interracial Books for Children, 1973, and outstanding book of the year citation, New York Times, 1975, both for Song of the Trees; American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1976, National Book Award finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book citation, and Newbery Medal, all 1977, and Buxtehuder Bulle Award, 1985, all for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Outstanding book of the year citation, New York Times, 1981, Jane Addams honor, 1982, American Book Award nomination, 1982, and Coretta Scott King Award, 1982, all for Let the Circle Be Unbroken; New York Times notable book citation, 1987, and Christopher Award, 1988, both for The Gold Cadillac; Coretta Scott King Book Award, 1988, for The Friendship, 1990, for The Road to Memphis, and 2002, for The Land; Christopher Award, 1991, for Mississippi Bridge; ALAN Award for Significant Contribution to Young Adult Literature, National Council of Teachers of English, 1997; Jason Award, 1997, for The Well: David’s Story; Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, 2002, for The Land; NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, 2004, for body of work.